Reflecting on one of the biggest jobs in financial technology — or anywhere in banking, for that matter — Catherine Bessant waxes philosophical: “Is technology a supporting element of banking, or is it what we sell?” Bank of America Corp., of which Bessant has been global technology and operations executive since 2010, had 238,560 full-time employees as of March 31. Today, with a $17 billion operating budget, Bessant’s group consists of some 124,000 staff and contractors, 40,000 of whom came on in April, indicating how the balance is tipping at $2.1 trillion-in-assets BofA. “We still have to deliver on all the traditional fronts, reducing the cost of providing services, [ensuring] stability and platform performance,” says Bessant, 54, who previously served as BofA’s president of global corporate banking and chief marketing officer. “But innovation is increasingly about technology capabilities,” which will be critical to growth and competitiveness. Emphasizing the importance of intellectual property, the Charlotte, North Carolina–based bank obtained 265 patents last year, 62 percent more than in 2012. “Think about the transformation of our business model against a backdrop of serving 30 million active online customers and 15 million mobile customers,” Bessant says, noting that delivery channels are changing and customer loyalties can swing in a world of handheld devices and social media. She regards regulatory change as “an opportunity to make our work better. You can’t motivate a large technology and operations organization if you classify a significant portion of the work as a burden.”
Global Technology and Operations Executive
Bank of America Corp.
The 2014 Tech 50