It was in the small town of Jackson, Mich., that Catherine P. Bessant gave her first speech. Coached by her father, a public speaking teacher, the 5-year-old held forth on the nation's space program.

Twenty-nine years later, Ms. Bessant is still talking up a storm. As a senior vice president and community reinvestment officer at NationsBank, she is perhaps the most outspoken person in her increasingly visible field.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.