Managing Director; Head of Advisor Strategy & Development
New York, N.Y.
Racquel Oden has changed the face of Wall Street and considers that one of her proudest career achievements. “Historically, hiring women and minorities into the wealth management business is something we have not been able to do. But I hire more than 1,700 advisers a year and I’ve made it a commitment to put diversity at the forefront of my job,” she notes.
Head of Advisor Strategy & Development for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, Oden leads new adviser development programs, and business development and client acquisition for the company’s more than 14,000 advisers. In addition to her professional commitment to diversity, Oden, a member of the Women’s Financial Association, also makes diversity the center of her personal life. “Outside of work, my true passion is connecting historically black colleges and university students to corporate America. I graduated from an HBCU and I sit on the board of Thurgood Marshall College Fund, where we have forty-nine of the public HBCUs. We focus on leadership development, scholarships and employment,” she explains. There are challenges, she adds, around funding, sustaining and continuing to grow the foundation in order to give scholarships. “But it’s not just about scholarships. We teach students to be leaders so they will be future leaders and reintroduce the importance of HBCUs to corporations.
Oden earned her bachelor’s degree from James Madison University and an MBA from Hampton University, a HBCU. “HBCUs offer the priceless experience of building leaders who understand who they are and the value they can provide while being their authentic selves,” she asserts. She is also an executive board member of the National Visionary Leadership Project, which archives African-American history. “My belief is you have to know your history in order to understand where you are going,” she declares.