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The 2017 Tech 40: Catherine Bessant

< The 2017 Tech 402. Catherine BessantChief Operations and Technology OfficerBank of America Corp.Last year: 1

Not a technologist by training, Bank of America Corp.'s Catherine Bessant has held one of the biggest technology jobs in the business world since transitioning from president of global corporate banking in 2010. Under Bessant, who has a $16 billion annual budget and 95,000 employees and contractors in 35 countries, the bank's global technology and operations unit, known as GT&O, has been moving BofA onto a software-defined network infrastructure; has consolidated 65 data centers down to 16; and has created a Technology Innovation Summit where start-ups can mingle with bankers and venture capitalists. The chief operations and technology officer's overarching goal is to digitize the $2.2 trillion-in-assets bank in hopes of making it as nimble and flexible as a start-up. Getting that done requires the right mix of talent and culture. "That's not necessarily great coding talent," says Bessant, 57, who has been with Bank of America for 35 years and has held such other positions as chief marketing officer and president of consumer real estate and community development banking. "I mean people who are natural digital thinkers. In a way, they can't even envision an analog solution," she explains, adding that it is an ability that cannot be taught, is not necessarily age-related, and is informing the way the bank is assessing its future leadership. "This is a frame of mind: How do we want people to think?" Bessant says, invoking the term "change-hungry," which can be applied to her. Digitization initiatives have reduced the expenses of the North Carolina–based bank by $1.6 billion annually, while it is investing $3 billion a year in growth. In June, BofA announced a deal to use Oracle Corp.'s cloud system for enterprise resource planning and financial applications. The bank expects 80 percent of its tech workloads to be in the cloud in the next few years. "We're much more aggressive in using external cloud technology than even two years ago," Bessant notes.

Among other activities, Bessant is executive sponsor of the bank's disability initiative and is championing technology as a way to improve accessibility. She is also behind a new program called "device as delighter." Though she admits the project could have a better name, it is about making sure that employees have technology resources — even help desks — that truly delight them.

 The 2017 Tech 40Click below to view profiles
1. Adena FriedmanNASDAQ2. Catherine BessantBank of
America Corp.3. Robert GoldsteinBlackRock4. Jeffrey SprecherIntercontinental Exchange5. Lance UgglaIHS Markit
6. Shawn Edwards & Vlad KliatchkoBloomberg7. David CraigThomson Reuters8. Michael SpencerNEX Group9. Don CallahanCitigroup10. Elisha WieselGoldman Sachs Group
11. Michael BodsonDepository Trust & Clearing Corp.12. Terrence DuffyCME Group13. Charles LiHong Kong Exchanges and Clearing14. Sean BelkaFidelity Investments15. Chris ConcannonCBOE Holdings
16. Guy ChiarelloFirst Data Corp.17. Steven LieblichCitadel18. David RutterR3CEV19. Blythe MastersDigital Asset Holdings20. Alfred SpectorTwo Sigma Investments
21. Neil KatzD.E. Shaw Group22. Lee OleskyTradeweb Markets23. Richard McVeyMarketAxess Holdings24. David GledhillDBS Bank25. Seth MerrinLiquidnet Holdings
26. Antoine ShagouryState Street Corp.27. Peter Brown &
Robert Mercer
Renaissance Technologies28. Lou EcclestonTMX Group29. Peter CherecwichNorthern Trust Corp.30. Mike ChinnS&P Global Market Intelligence
31. Chris CorradoLondon Stock Exchange Group32. Neal PawarAQR Capital Management33. Gary NorcrossFidelity National Information Services34. Steven O'HanlonNumerix35. Sebastián CeriaAxioma
36. Brian ConlonFirst Derivatives and Kx Systems37. Tyler KimMaplesFS38. Michael CooperBT Radianz39. Robert SchifelliteBroadridge Financial Solutions40. Jim MinnickeVestment