Bank Of America’s Cathy Bessant Talks Cybersecurity, Jobs And … Dancing

By Rick Rothacker and Deon Roberts
The Charlotte Observer.


When it comes to cybersecurity, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan has said his staff has a blank check for whatever it needs to protect the nation’s No. 2 bank by assets.

For Cathy Bessant, the bank’s Charlotte-based head of technology and operations, it’s a sign of great support from her boss, but also great responsibility.

“Any time a CEO says your budget is unlimited and says it in public, that is code for don’t mess it up,” Bessant said in a recent interview in the bank’s headquarters. “So I think that is both a measure of the firm’s commitment to protecting our customers, but it’s also a measure of accountability that my team and I feel.”

Moynihan has said the bank spends about $400 million a year on cybersecurity, but that’s just a portion of an annual technology and operations budget that approaches $10 billion. With around 100,000 employees reporting to her, Bessant oversees a unit that does everything from processing checks to managing call centers to rolling out new innovations such as Apple Pay.

About 6,000 of her employees are in Charlotte, including staff focused on cybersecurity.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Observer, Bessant discussed staffing in the unit, the bank’s work at home policy, offshoring, the NASCAR Hall of Fame and her role as a female leader. She also covered the “terrifying” challenge of performing in the recent Charlotte Ballet’s local “Dancing with the Stars” contest.

In her preparation, she had to overcome a pelvis fracture suffered when she slipped on ice during an annual conference in Davos, Switzerland. As a breast cancer survivor, she said she’s motivated to raise money for a cancer support center that honors a former bank executive.

Questions and answers are edited for clarity and brevity.

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