Cathy Bessant, the Charlotte-based head of technology and operations for Bank of America, probably did not expect the question that was posed to her by a Girl Scout on Thursday.
Bessant, the featured guest at a Girl Scouts event in Charlotte, was participating in a question-and-answer session when one of the Scouts asked her: “Are some bankers good?”
The question comes seven years after the 2008 financial crisis, in which large U.S. banks faltered and required taxpayer bailouts. The question also comes as big banks, like Bank of America, continue to battle litigation tied to the crisis.
Banking is a “very good and noble” profession, Bessant told the group.
She then described some of the important roles banks play, such as giving people loans to buy homes.
“We help create opportunities for people to make money and provide for their families,” Bessant said.
Bessant’s visit took place the same week the Hornets’ Nest Council, a Girl Scouts chapter than spans eight counties in the Charlotte metro area, named her the recipient of its 2015 lifetime achievement award.
Past honorees include Pat Rodgers, CEO of construction company Rodgers Builders, and Sarah Belk Gambrell, daughter of William Henry Belk, the founder of the Belk department store chain.
A Girl Scout back when she was growing up in Jackson, Mich., Bessant said Thursday that the organization armed her with important skills.
“A lot of what it takes to be a leader, I learned in Girl Scouting,” she told the Scouts.
Bessant remains one of the most powerful women in U.S. banking, overseeing roughly 110,000 of Bank of America’s 216,679 total employees.
Her stature within the Charlotte-based bank was elevated on Wednesday when the lender named her chief operations and technology officer. Her role with the bank didn’t change, but she is now one of only five Bank of America executives with the word “chief” in their title.