Lessons From The Businesswoman With The Largest IT Job in Financial Services, article in Forbes

November 19, 2013
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Peter High speaks with Cathy Bessant, an Global Technology and Operations executive of Bank of America, on her role within the organization and thoughts on IT leadership.

by Peter High, published on Forbes.com


Cathy Bessant has one of the biggest technology roles on the planet. She runs Global Technology and Operations at Bank of America, and in that role has nearly 100,000 people on her team in 35 counties. She first joined the company in 1982 as a corporate banker in Texas. Since then she has been the President of Bank of America Florida, the National Small Business Segment executive, the President of Consumer Real Estate and Community Development Banking, the chief marketing officer, the President of Global Treasury Services and Global Product Solutions, and the President of Global Corporate Banking. Therefore, she has had an extraordinary breadth of experiences at the Bank, but she did not grow up in IT per se.

The prudent use of data and information is as important in the financial services industry as any other industry. It touches everything that a bank does. In many ways, having someone who has had such a wide variety of executive positions in the company is the ideal candidate for the Technology and Operations role that Bessant occupies.  As she notes below, the key to filling in any gaps she might have on the technology side, is having a skilled team, while learning from the various companies whose boards she sits on.

(To listen to an extended podcast version of this interview, please visit this link. To have more stories like this one delivered to you, please click the “Follow” link above.)

Peter High: Cathy, I thought we would begin with your role. You run what is referred to as Global Technology and Operations at Bank of America. What is your purview in that role, and what functions report to you?

Cathy Bessant: I have CIOs who are responsible for each of our lines of business, as well as for risk and finance, who report into me. For their respective businesses, each CIO manages his or her business’s technology and operations. All told, I have a team of nearly 100,000 employees and contractors in 35 countries. Global Technology and Operations provides the platforms and fulfillment services that sustain the company’s consumer banking, wealth management, commercial banking, treasury services, sales and trading, and investment banking businesses – as well as risk management, finance and other critical support functions. I also have responsibility, of course, for infrastructure, for information security and for business continuity.

Additional topics covered in the article include:

  • With such a diverse set of businesses around the globe, how do you think about the balance between standardization of technology versus one-off solutions to meet the specific needs of one business or another?
  • Can you speak about your team’s focus in recent years and how that projects forward in your plans for the foreseeable future?
  • At the risk of painting with a broad brushstroke, IT leaders have not traditionally been the most extroverted, communicative, networked executives in the company. That said, you came to this role having held a vast number of executive roles, and so you possess skills that that many IT executives in recent decades did not. How have your past roles served you well in taking on your current responsibilities?
  • You have been a CMO and an IT executive. Much is written about the interplay of these roles and the value that can be derived at the intersection of these disciplines. What perspectives have you drawn now that you have led each function?
  • You have served on a number of corporate boards. What value do you derive out of serving on boards?
  • What advice would you offer to CIOs who would wish to gain access to corporate boards?

To read the full article, please visit Forbes.com

To explore the Technovation Column library, please click here.

To listen to a Forum on World Class IT podcast interview with Cathy, click here.


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