Bank of America executive Cathy Bessant on Wednesday became the first banker to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Charlotte chapter of the Girl Scouts.
Bessant, chief operations and technology officer for the Charlotte-based lender, is the 10th recipient of the honor from the Hornets’ Nest Council, which began issuing the award in 2006.
Bessant was given the award, announced earlier this summer, during a luncheon ceremony in a ballroom at the Westin hotel in uptown. Previous recipients 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 Michigan native who grew up as a Girl Scout in that state, Bessant on Wednesday credited the scouts for teaching her important lessons she said she’s relied on throughout her career. For example, she said, having to go door to door selling Girl Scout cookies provided training in overcoming fears.
On Wednesday, Bessant also mentioned a conversation she had with a young Girl Scout in July. “Are some bankers good?” the scout had asked Bessant.
Bessant shared a view similar to the one she told the scout at the time.
“Done well, banking is a noble profession,” Bessant said.
Bessant is a high-ranking banker in an industry that remains dominated by men. She is seventh on publication American Banker’s latest annual listing of the 25 “Most Powerful Women in Banking.” She is second on Institutional Investor’s 2015 “Tech 50” list, the publication’s annual ranking of financial-technology professionals.
She is also one of four Charlotte-based direct reports to CEO Brian Moynihan, who has a total of 13 direct reports. Four of those direct reports are women.
Her roles at Bank of America have included chief marketing officer and head of global corporate banking. In 2010, Moynihan named her to her current role heading the technology and operations division.
Her division contains about 110,000 of Bank of America’s approximately 216,000 worldwide employees, making it one of the bank’s largest units. The unit oversees everything from cybersecurity to processing checks to managing call centers.
Bessant began working for a Bank of America predecessor bank in 1982, as a corporate banker in Texas.
In a video the Girl Scouts played at the luncheon, Moynihan, Gov. Pat McCrory and retired Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl Jr. spoke highly of Bessant.
“When you think about Cathy’s leadership and what stands out ... she’s to the point, she’s direct, she’s compassionate, she helps people,” Moynihan said in the video.