58, Chief operations and technology officer,
Bank of America
University of Michigan, B.A.
Named the banking industry’s most powerful woman in 2018 by American Banker, Bessant has helped BofA retain its leadership in mobile banking. She attended college aided by a scholarship provided by a businessman in her hometown of Jackson, Mich. After achieving success in banking, she created a similar fund for rural students seeking degrees at her Ann Arbor alma mater. Since 2010, she has led the bank’s technology and operations unit, overseeing nearly 95,000 employees and contractors in more than 35 countries. Her advocacy of LGBTQ rights and North Carolina’s financial-technology industry have drawn praise. UNC Charlotte gave her its highest honor last year, the Distinguished Service Award, reflecting her various civic contributions.
What is North Carolina’s key challenge?
Workforce transformation. North Carolina has a rich history of transforming our workforce as industry has changed from tobacco to furniture to banking. As technology increases the pace of change, what it takes to maintain a cutting-edge workforce must include a strong ecosystem of academia, local and state government, and industry partners. Our competitive workforce must be magnetic for companies seeking to move here and to our existing companies.
What is your proudest moment?
I have many proud moments, and I hope to have many more. I can tell you this: They came from hard-fought effort, collaboration and teamwork. Being part of great teams has resulted in some of my most rewarding moments.
What advice do you share with newcomers?
Focus on brilliant performance and execution. Be curious, and challenge the status quo. Seize new opportunities and bring your unique perspective to the table. Always be candid and transparent.
Who has had the biggest influence in your career?
No one person has had the biggest influence on my career. I take the best and worst from lots of people and try to be the composite of what I’ve learned from them.
What is something people don’t know about you?
I like taking on things that don’t come naturally to me — a photography expedition to Cuba, competing as a dancer in Charlotte’s version of Dancing With the Stars and summiting Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest freestanding mountain, just this year.