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Bank Of America Names New Payments Head

Barbara Desoer will have the responsibilities of a CIO as well as business-line responsibilities--signifying IT's emergence as a key business area at the bank.

In a groundbreaking move, Bank of America Corp. this week named Barbara Desoer as chief technology, service, and fulfillment executive. Desoer, who will report to president and CEO Ken Lewis, formerly headed the bank's consumer-banking business. She will lead strategy development and execution for the bank's technology platforms and fulfillment capabilities, which include ATMs, call centers, consumer-risk operations, and its Latin American business. She'll also lead development and implementation of the company's payments strategy.

Desoer becomes CIO in deed if not in title, says a spokesman at Bank of America, which has $1.1 trillion in assets following its merger earlier this year with FleetBoston Financial Corp. Former CIO Tim Arnhoult will head the bank's global treasury services business.

The fact that Desoer has been given both CIO and business-line responsibilities--and that she reports directly to Lewis--signifies the emergence of IT as a key business area instead of merely a support role. "In banking, technology is driving a lot of change, so this puts someone in charge who understands both the business and the technology," the spokesman says. "There's a recognition that technology and the business need to be together."

In her role as payments czar, Desoer will be working to formulate an enterprise strategy for all kinds of payments--checks, credit cards, electronic payments, and high-value payments--all of which are transitioning from paper to electronic. "We process more checks than anyone else, and we need to stay on top of that," the spokesman says.

Financial Insights analyst Bill Bradway says other large financial institutions are constructing similar enterprise payments frameworks to pull together systems that had previously been housed in payment silos.

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