KAREN FANG Bank of America

Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Karen Fang

Global Head of Sustainable Finance and Managing Director, Bank of America

In January, Karen Fang was tapped by CEO Brian Moynihan to take on a new high-profile role at Bank of America: head of sustainable financing for the firm.

It was the second major job change in under a year for Fang, who’s long been considered one of the brightest stars in the firm’s global markets division. Just nine months earlier she’d been promoted to a new senior role in the bank’s fixed-income trading division, where she’d be in charge of helping solve one of the hottest trends in credit trading — massive portfolio and ETF trades.

But the opportunity to lead the vanguard on one of the buzziest and most influential areas in all of finance was too hard to pass up. Money has for years been pouring into funds that screen for investments based on environmental, social, and governance factors, with global sustainable fund assets reaching a record $960 billion at the end of 2019, according to Morningstar. Sources familiar with Fang told BI she’d been quietly gunning for just such a position for some time.

“After two decades of working in finance, the purpose-driven nature of this role deeply resonated with me,” Fang recently told Business Insider. “I can apply my structuring, financing, and trading expertise to mobilize and scale capital deployment that contributes to environmental and social sustainability.”

It didn’t take long for the first major challenge to arrive: finding novel ways to finance COVID-19 relief efforts. While other organizations, including the Africa Development Bank and Pfizer, kicked off the trend by launching the first pandemic bonds in late March, Bank of America in May launched the first pandemic bond issued by a US commercial bank.

The proceeds of BofA’s $1 billion bond will fund healthcare clients involved in fighting the coronavirus, including not-for-profit hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and manufacturers of medical supplies.

By the time the bond priced in mid-May, it had attracted an enthusiastic response and was oversubscribed several times.

“The pandemic opened up a new market for investors to make a difference in the world of needed capital in a crisis," Fang said in May.