Most Powerful Women in Finance: No. 14, BofA's Katy Knox

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President, Bank of America Private Bank

Katy Knox took a multimillion-dollar calculated risk soon after being appointed president of Bank of America Private Bank in the fall of 2017. Less than two years later, the strategy to spend big on technology for the sake of future growth is paying off.

“When I came in, we did an evaluation of what we call the infrastructure, and I did a tour of 100 or so days of listening to our teams and where the pain points were,” said Knox, who oversees a workforce of 4,000 people in 90 offices across 32 states. “It became very clear that we had to make a significant investment in the infrastructure — the client-facing technology as well as the associate-facing technology.”

Knox has overseen a 75% increase in annual tech spending at the private bank, which entailed shifting some priorities. “It wasn’t popular for folks who lost their projects in order to fund some of this technology,” she said.

Further complicating things, Bank of America also decided to phase out the U.S. Trust legacy brand. But with 85% of private bank clients — all of whom have investable assets of $3 million or more — also doing retail banking with BofA, turning the two platforms into one made sense, Knox said.

The integration is a work in progress. “We’ve done four big technology releases,” she said. “November will be one of our biggest.”

Many of the changes are about streamlining and digitizing processes — for example, enabling real-time client enrollment through the use of electronic signatures.

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Knox pointed to digital interactions at the private bank — a total of 1.5 million in 2018, up 35% from the prior year — as a measure of success. A revamped mobile app rolled out in September 2018 accounted for half of that growth.

This year the momentum has continued, with digital interactions up another 11% through the beginning of August.

Besides investing in technology, Knox is adding people and expanding into new markets. By the end of next year, the private bank aims to have twice as many advisers, about 600, as it had when Knox became president, and be in twice as many markets.

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