InformationWeek Names 2014 Chief Of The Year: Bank Of America's Cathy Bessant

Head of bank's Global Technology & Operations division honored for her steady, pragmatic leadership during troubled times.

Dec 1, 2014

NEW YORK, Dec. 1, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- While Silicon Valley is the home of technology innovation, financial services is where the IT rubber hits the road.

(UBM Tech/InformationWeek)

The financial sector is where the latest technology innovations -- from data analytics to mobile applications to information security to the private cloud -- are put to the test. And it's in financial services that InformationWeek found its Chief of the Year for 2014: Cathy Bessant, head of Bank of America's 100,000-person Global Technology & Operations organization.

In the past, InformationWeek has tended to honor leaders at the forefront of technology innovation, such as Werner Vogels at and Stephen Gillet at Starbucks. But in 2014, InformationWeek turned its attention to the financial services industry, where Bessant is leading an IT transformation effort at Bank of America.

Bank of America is undergoing a massive transformation that includes consolidation of legacy systems and a refocus on information security and regulatory compliance, writes Rob Preston, editor in chief of InformationWeek, in his profile of Bessant and BofA's work.

"Under a four-year plan she put into motion in 2010, BofA has retired more than 18,000 applications, many of them left over from acquisitions. For example, it's spending $100 million to consolidate five Merrill Lynch financial adviser platforms into one, a project due to be completed next year. In its wholesale banking business, 521,000 users at corporate clients in 140 countries now access its CashPro Online treasury and credit management portal in 11 languages; the portal replaced hundreds of applications and systems for everything from liquidity management to currency conversion to wire transfers. Elsewhere, BofA has consolidated 22 collateral management systems down to one. Its eight different teller systems—now one."

Following the financial crisis, Bessant is taking a conservative, practical approach to technology that ensures that data is protected and systems work to fulfill the needs of customers:

"The legacy issues in the mortgage space we are getting behind us, and we will get them behind us," Bessant told InformationWeek. "But if they were perceived to be part of a pattern of an inability to perform, they take on a much different proportional importance. I think it means the stakes have been really high for the technology solutions we develop to work, for our platforms to never be down."

Since 1986, the editors of InformationWeek have recognized a CIO or other technology leader for its Chief of the Year honor. In some years, the editors have picked multiple chiefs -- in 2001 InformationWeek recognized several CIOs who responded to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and in 2013 IT honored five executives changing the way higher education uses technology.

For more details about Cathy Bessant and her work at Bank of America, please check out Rob Preston's piece on InformationWeek also has some memorable quotes from Bessant, and InformationWeek Editor Chris Murphy has a look at how the bank works with technology startups to help support its IT needs.

As always, the InformationWeek welcomes your questions and comments.

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