The Grill: Catherine P. Bessant

Two years ago, Catherine P. Bessant was tapped to lead Bank of America's Global Technology and Operations (GT&O) group, which has more than 100,000 staffers and contractors in 40 countries. Here Bessant talks about leading a tech group that includes five CIOs as direct reports, the importance of employee diversity, and how relying too much on third parties for IT services can backfire.

You came into an IT leadership position from the business side. Was it a hard transition? I was helped by the fact that I've been a part of most of the businesses we serve. I came to the field having had a fair amount of experience using the technology.

What has been one of your most effective projects? After a lot of planning over many years, we're in the final stages of transitioning our California and Northwest regions' core banking systems into the model platform used by the company so that we have a single, core banking platform across the U.S. We retired 11,000 different batch jobs that ran daily and decommissioned 110 obsolete applications.

What was the impetus behind that project? The undertaking of an initiative like this is challenging. It produces a great benefit to existing customers but is not necessarily the next great product you're going to use to boost revenue. But one of the company's key operating principles is to clean up all legacy issues. Those targets are well in sight.

What other projects have you overseen? We're proud of our mobile banking platform. We had the first mobile banking app for the iPhone. In terms of commercial clients, in the last 24 months we have made significant enhancements to the CashPro Online portal. We scaled it so that clients can use it globally. In our wealth management business, there's a portal called MyMerrill that now allows clients to see both their banking and investment accounts.

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