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Bank of America CIO Says Simplification and Risk Reduction Are Keys to IT Success

By , CIO
January 10, 2013 04:31 PM ET

CIO - Catherine Bessant's journey to the CIO role at Bank of America wasn't your standard ascent through the ranks of IT. Bessant, now Global Technology and Operations Executive, leads a team of more than 100,000 employees and contractors who handle all technology and operations for the giant financial institution. But prior to tackling IT, Bessant was president of Global Corporate Banking, Global Treasury Services and the Global Product Solutions groups. She's also served as chief marketing officer for the bank.

In this installment of the IDG Enterprise CIO Interview Series, Bessant spoke with IDG Enterprise's Chief Content Officer John Gallant about the advantages--and challenges--of being a non-technologist leading IT. She also discusses the lessons she's learned from navigating Bank of America's super-sized acquisitions.

In addition, the oft-honored Bessant talked about her team's bold plan to simplify dramatically the IT environment and its goal to reduce risk through design, aggressive training and more. A lover of Shakespeare, Bessant also explains what lessons the Bard holds for IT leaders everywhere.

"To business that we love we rise betime and go to it with delight."

William Shakespeare, "Anthony and Cleopatra"

Q: The last couple of years have been really tough for the banking industry, and I think people would be fascinated to know what, as CIO, was your role and strategy to help Bank of America through this challenging period?

A: Through any challenging period like this it takes several fundamentals. It takes great data, so that companies working through challenges can make good decisions. I hate the term "big data" so I'm not going to use it. But in any time of challenge, it is the CIO's job to make sure that no stone is left unturned in terms of the quality of data and the comprehensiveness of data, and its usefulness in the firm.

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