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Friday, May 24, 2024

Foundation for the Carolinas taps Bessant for CEO

Bank of America executive Cathy Bessant was named CEO of the Foundation for the Carolinas, the Charlotte-based nonprofit that is one of the city’s most influential groups.

Bessant, 63, has worked in banking for 42 years. In January, she will join the Charlotte group, which has 182 employees and an annual budget of nearly $17 million. She’s been one of BofA’s highest-ranking executives for decades, serving the past two years as vice chair of global strategy in Paris.

Cathy Bessant

Most of her career has been spent in Charlotte, where she had led the giant bank’s technology and operations division before taking the job in Europe. She was among the senior executives in Charlotte who worked on former CEO Ken Lewis’ management team and remained in key posts after Brian Moynihan became CEO in 2010 and moved key leadership to New York. She often appears on lists of the most influential U.S. female bankers.

Bessant was an active civic leader in Charlotte and served on the foundation’s board, including as chair from 2009-14.

Michael Marsicano retired last December after 23 years as the foundation’s CEO. Since then, the foundation has been led on an interim basis by Laura Smith, the group’s former chief operating officer. The foundation ranks fifth among U.S. community foundations in size, and distributes hundreds of millions of philanthropic dollars annually for groups and individuals

Bessant was originally on the search committee to find Marsicano’s successor, but later left the group, the Charlotte Business Journal reported. The search committee was led by former BofA executive Arrington Mixon.

Marsicano gained a reputation as among Charlotte’s most influential leaders during his tenure and helped make the foundation a force on key community issues. His compensation totaled about $920,000 in 2021, according to the group’s last public tax filing.

“I built my career on racial equality, economic equality and on social justice,” Bessant told the Business Journal. “So, you can expect me to leverage the work that’s been done, and to work very hard to take it forward. There’s no question that the opportunities and the challenges that our region faces are real.”

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