Management Strategies

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Kathy Burger
Kathy Burger
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The Changing Look of Banking IT Leadership

As the Anita Borg Institute awards Bank of America its 2014 Top Company for Women in Computing award, it's worth noting that Bank Systems & Technology's Elite 8 Awards also reflect the changing dynamics in banking IT leadership. Nominations for 2014 honorees are underway.

One of the most gratifying developments I've watched in more than 20 years of covering financial technology has been the increased diversity at the senior levels of IT management. Certainly numerous hurdles -- economic, cultural, political, generational, psychological -- still exist to impede the progress to the executive suite of women, people of color, disabled and other people we might consider minorities. But one by one the hurdles are being toppled, resulting in an array of talent at the top of banking IT that looks quite different from what I encountered when I started working with the industry.

Underscoring this historic transformation are the 2014 Top Company for Women in Computing ABIE Awards announced recently by the Anita Borg Institute (ABI), a non-profit organization dedicated to "connecting, inspiring and guiding women in computing and organizations that view technology innovation as a strategic imperative." Anita Borg was a pioneering computer scientist who founded ABI in 1997, six years before her death at the tragically young age of 54.

The 2014 award recipient is Bank of America, which has a workforce that is more than 60% women. According to a press release from ABI, "Bank of America was recognized for exceptional representation of women technologists in both its management and team of technical experts. The bank has the highest percentage of women among its technical experts of any company ever considered by The Anita Borg Institute for a Top Company Award. In addition, Bank of America successfully retains the vast majority of its female technologists, with only 3% voluntary turnover annually."

"We are doing a lot of work across Bank of America, and on our technology team in particular, to increase the representation of women in leadership roles," said Cathy Bessant, Bank of America's Global Technology & Operations executive, in the announcement. "This is a journey for us. While we have certainly made progress, we will continue to identify root causes that hold women back, and attack them with vigor. At Bank of America, we're developing women to be great technologists and great leaders."

[Cathy Bessant on IT's role in simplifying and modernizing Bank of America: Bank of America Executive Places Importance on Risk Management as New Banking Technologies Emerge]

Added Telle Whitney, president and CEO of the ABI, "We are delighted to honor Bank of America for setting a new bar and breaking previous records, and for working diligently to ensure greater diversity throughout their organization. They have designed and executed successful programs and initiatives to support real diversity, and are a model organization that others can turn to for knowledge and inspiration."

In addition to Bessant, Bank of America's senior IT executive ranks include Bridget O'Connor, CIO, consumer banking technology and operations, legacy asset servicing technology, Bank of America. O'Connor was recognized by Bank Systems & Technology as one of our 2013 Elite 8 honorees, along with Chandra Dhandapani, Senior VP and CIO, Financial Services Division, Capital One Bank. These two women were recognized by BS&T for their accomplishments, not their gender. But this underscores that in financial services, IT leadership is far from the proverbial "old boys club."

In fact, financial services is leading the way in redefining the traditional role of the CIO to encompass a mix of disciplines, background and skills -- essential to success in today's customer-focused, digital banking environment. And it is in that spirit that BS&T has opened nominations for the 2014 Elite 8 honorees. Are your bank's top technology or line-of-business executives leading change, innovation and success at your organization? If so, let us know. The 2014 Elite honorees will be profiled in the October 2014 digital issue of Bank Systems & Technology.

Click here to nominate a deserving bank executive today. Nominations close on Friday, June 6, 2014.

[Budgets and technology specifications are only part of an technology leader's responsibilities. Managing an IT workforce might be the most challenging aspect of any executive's job. Attend the Humans Aren't Computers: Effective Management Strategies for IT Leaders session at Interop 2014 in Las Vegas, March 31-April 4 to learn new management techniques.

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Author
3/24/2014 | 3:58:21 PM
re: The Changing Look of Banking IT Leadership
It is terrific to learn of this award by Anita Borg Institute recognizing women in computing and the organizations that designed initiatives to support them. Bank of America really stands out in having 60% of its technology leadership and technical team comprised of women. I agree the financial industry has become more diverse, but it has a way to go and here I am speaking of areas such as capital markets, trading, and investment banking where men still dominate the leadership roles. Perhaps IT is more diversified than other areas in recruiting women. We have reported on minority owned brokerage firms including women-owned firms that are supported by state, city and public pension plans, so diversity is on the rise there as well.
User Rank: Author
3/24/2014 | 4:54:02 PM
re: The Changing Look of Banking IT Leadership
I've been seeing a lot more attention in the media on diversity in the IT industry. Hopefully that will lead to some changes. And BofA's low turnover rate indicates that it's an organization that values making the workplace comfortable for women. That's definitely something to be commended.
Greg MacSweeney
Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Author
3/27/2014 | 8:29:44 PM
re: The Changing Look of Banking IT Leadership
This is a great sign. It's good to see that BofA won this award and hopefully in future years more banks will also be honored for increasing diversity in the IT workforce.
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