Charting a lane for the next generation: Merrill Lynch's Racquel Oden on attracting and retaining millennial talent.

Author:Connley, Courtney
Position:POWER PLAYER - Interview

AS HEAD OF ADVISOR STRATEGY and Development for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, Racquel Oden has played an integral role in helping the company to attract and retain some of the world's top financial advisers.

Overseeing the firm's three-and-a-half-year practice management development (PMD) training program, Oden hires approximately 1,700 advisers a year while also coaching and training current advisers within the company on the growth of their business and client acquisition. After spending more than 11 years in the financial industry, Oden came to the Merrill Lynch family in 2010 and has placed a special focus on helping the company diversify the pipeline of talent it secures with the launch of a new internship program in 2014 geared toward exposing college juniors and seniors to career opportunities at the firm.

What do you look for in candidates who are looking to go through the practice management development training program?

We actually are just looking for people with strong skill sets to bring to the firm and people who have a track record of success. You can be in any industry and doing anything. We are looking for people who have an entrepreneurial spirit and who truly love and enjoy, at the heart of their daily job, working with clients.

In addition to helping the company graduate about 40% of the nearly 4,000 trainees who go through the PMD program, how do you work to keep these hires within the firm?

For every PMD hire that we have there is an assigned mentor. What we do is ensure there is someone on the outside who can give guidance, feedback, and support to those going through the program. So not only do they have coaches, which is a very separate thing, but we actually assign them a mentor, which is an existing adviser who is already here and can give them the guidance they need because they've already been through the program or worked here for some time.

For young professionals who may not have a program like PMD, how can they go about getting on a potential mentor's radar?

First, it will really start with having an understanding of the industry itself and then figuring out what it is you want to do in that space. Secondly, you want to find the leaders that are known in that space so that you see what they are doing and ensure that you have an understanding of the role. Outreach is always tough because everyone is always busy, so be deliberate about what you are asking if you try to make the outreach. When you go in...

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