14 Catherine Bessant

Global Technology and Operations Executive
Bank of America Corp.

During her 19 months as head of  Bank of America Corp.’s global technology and operations, Catherine Bessant has had to put out fires — the $2.3 trillion-in-assets company was (and still is) absorbing a series of crisis-era acquisitions, including Countrywide Financial Corp. and Merrill Lynch & Co. — while preparing to serve an increasingly mobile customer base. “It’s about taking the traditional bricks-and-mortar idea of a branch and creating a personal branch,” says Bessant, who oversees a workforce of 109,000 worldwide (including contractors). In terms of technology, “we are going from mobile on a smartphone to an app on a PC to a card with a chip in it that can be used without being swiped” — a departure from previous-generation magnetic stripe cards. BofA asserts that its iPhone application was an industry first. “It isn’t very often that what’s good for your customer in terms of value also creates value for the company,” observes Bessant, a 29-year veteran of Charlotte, North Carolina–based BofA who previously headed global corporate banking. In addition to serving as BofA’s top technology executive, the 50-year-old chairs the bank’s environmental council, overseeing a $20 billion commitment to address climate change. The initiative includes greenhouse-gas reductions at data centers and other properties within Bessant’s purview.