How to Forecast Professional Success

Head shot of Browning
Candace Browning ’77

Candace Browning ’77 hasn’t let the challenges of climbing the ranks in the demanding, male-dominated finance industry slow her down.

One of Wall Street’s prominent movers and shakers, Browning is head of global research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. She oversees a team of more than 650 analysts in 20 countries, who follow 3,000 stocks and 1,100 credits globally, and provide economic forecasts for 54 countries, 34 commodities and 47 currencies. Her team puts out 70,000 reports a year. 

This fall, Browning, who has an MBA from Columbia, was ranked No. 6 on American Banker’s Most Powerful Women in Finance list. She’s built a career on knowing how to collect and analyze information, as Forbes noted in 2018 when it spotlighted her as one of 11 women changing the face of finance. Or, as American Banker wrote the previous year, “Candace Browning’s focus is turning mind-numbing reams of data into actionable intelligence.”

She credits much of her success to the grounding in the humanities she received at Brandeis. 

“It may be very out of fashion to say this, but I continue to be a big believer in liberal arts education,” says Browning, who majored in Russian history as an undergraduate and serves as a trustee at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire.

“A liberal arts education teaches you to be intellectually curious and to ask questions,” she says. “Whether you’re studying Aztec history in Mexico or the medieval period in Italy, you learn to ask, ‘What are the forces at play? Why did this happen?’ You take things apart, analyze them and learn to think.”

Browning, a self-professed news junkie, starts every morning searching interesting sources for stories on current events. Last summer, for instance, she regularly read the South China Morning Post for the latest updates on anti-government protests in Hong Kong. “I’m fascinated by the whole situation,” she says. 

Professional advancement wasn’t always smooth sailing for this mother of two. “I had a lot of anxiety and uncertainty about my career after the birth of my first child,” says Browning, who was working at Oppenheimer Funds at the time. 

“It was tough,” she recalls. “I told my boss I didn’t know if I could keep doing it. He said, ‘What I want you to do is take a deep breath and not come to work on Fridays. Then come back to me in five or six months and tell me how you feel.’ Within two and a half months, I was fine. He gave me the room I needed.”

Still, a 2018 McKinsey & Co. report estimates that only 19% of senior-level positions in financial services are filled by women, with work-family balance cited as a major concern. 

Browning is committed to closing that gap by helping other women reach leadership positions in finance. She’s active in her company’s Global Ambassadors Program, in which executives serve as mentors to younger professionals. She also insists no fewer than two women be considered for every open position in her department. 

She says she tells young women executives trying to balance family with career to “focus not only on what you’re delivering to the firm and your clients, but on making sure you keep yourself well and able to perform at your best.

“Owning that balance yourself is absolutely critical.”   

— Heather Salerno