Catherine Bessant
Chief Operations and Technology Officer
Bank of America Corp.

Can a $2.2 trillion-in-assets megabank modernize and innovate as nimbly as changes in technology and the competitive landscape require? If there are lingering doubts, Bank of America Corp. is well along in putting them to rest. “We’ve set a goal as a management team to make the digitization of BofA our legacy,” says Catherine Bessant, who for the last six of her 34 years with the bank has been its chief operations and technology officer. “Finance is technology, and technology is financial services. It’s a complete molecular osmosis. You can’t tell one from another.” Scale to a great extent defines Charlotte, North Carolina–based BofA, which employs more than 200,000 people and earned $15.9 billion in net income last year. Its U.S. retail business consists of 47 million consumer and small-business relationships, 4,700 offices and 16,000 automated teller machines. Bessant revels in some big numbers of her own: an annual technology budget of $17 billion and 110,000 employees and contractors around the globe. Signs of how times have changed: The bank has 33 million active online customers and 20 million mobile; 15 percent of deposits are made through mobile devices. “The role of mobile is to be a virtual financial center, a virtual financial adviser, a virtual trader,” says Bessant, 56, whose previous positions included president of global corporate banking, president of global product solutions and global treasury services, and chief marketing officer. She is proud that BofA was granted 259 patents in 2015 — more than any other financial services company. (The bank also leads the industry in blockchain-related patent filings, with 36.) But size and technological prowess have a downside. A big target for hackers, BofA is spending more than $400 million annually on cybersecurity and will commit more if necessary, Bessant says, noting that 23 percent of last year’s patents were security-related. Bessant is leading a transition to a software-defined network infrastructure that by 2018 is expected to be handling 80 percent of the bank’s workload. Other projects include cardless ATMs, which are accessed with mobile phones, and iFulfill, a web-based loan origination system.

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