Katrice Branner ensures smooth launches at Bank of America
In her MBA program, “my eyes were opened. I saw all the different things I could do with my skill sets. People think that engineers can only do engineering.”
Does a woman with a degree in chemical engineering who works in consumer banking services ever say to herself, “What was I thinking?”
“No, I don’t,” says Katrice Branner with a smile. “My degree wasn’t only about chemistry. It taught me how to break down problems and come up with new ways to do things.”
Branner is senior vice president and product delivery manager at Bank of America (Charlotte, NC). She joined the bank in 2006 as a participant in its technology MBA leadership development program, where she worked in three one-year assignments across global technology and operations. “The program was for individuals who didn’t necessarily have a financial services background,” she explains. “They had significant years of work experience, and they were engineers, technologists, or people with other analytical skills.”
She’s now responsible for end-to-end execution of new products, projects or technology platform enhancements to small business credit cards, lines of credit and term loans. “My team ensures that if any new products we launch impact our technology applications, we identify and define all the requirements related to that,” explains Branner.
“For example, if we launch a new credit card, certain technology enhancements have to happen,” she elaborates. “We may have to add new fields to an existing application, or we may have to add a new screen to our online environment. Customers need to see that card for their online accounts.”
Branner has six people reporting to her working on new product launches. All have technical and/or project management experience.
A passion for problem solving
Branner is from Atlanta, GA. Her passions in school were math, science and track and field. “By the time I got to high school, I was geared toward chemistry. That’s why I majored in it even though I knew I didn’t want to be a chemistry professor or work in a lab.
“I ended up at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville because they offered me engineering and a track scholarship. I was able to do both things I loved and have it paid for,” she says with a smile. Branner earned her BS in 1998 in chemical engineering with a minor in business administration.
She was a National Action Council for Minority Engineers (NACME) DuPont Chad Holliday Fellow and also interned at Dow Chemical. “Dow had a relationship with the university. A lot of my classmates interned with either Dow or DuPont. Those companies sponsored a lot of campus activities and would select students for their intern or co-op program.”
When she graduated, she joined Dow as a fulltime chemical engineer at plant locations in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. She worked on plant improvement projects to optimize chemical production across several different locations.
An eye-opening experience
In 2004, Branner left the company for graduate school. “I wanted to be closer to the customer and the business side of things.”
Branner attended Vanderbilt University’s Owen School of Management (Nashville, TN) and earned her MBA in 2006. “When I got to Vanderbilt, my eyes were opened,” she says. “It was like I had been living in a tunnel. I saw all the different things I could do with my engineering skill sets.”
While there, she interned with a financial services company as an MBA associate. “I was working in credit card collections. There are cardholders who can’t pay the entire balance due, and our group tried to predict how much of the balances we could expect to collect, rather than writing off the entire amount. It was a hardcore analytical project.”
When she finished her MBA, Branner joined Bank of America. “I met representatives from Bank of America at the National Black MBA conference and I was wowed.
“At the bank, I could do the type of work I wanted to do. I was going to a good location that facilitated networking and support, and it had flexible work arrangements. I knew I wanted to do a lot of things, and eventually expand my family. I needed a company that would support me in those things and Bank of America hit every point.
“In the leadership development program, people rotated every year across different groups working on technology projects. After three years, you’ve seen more areas of the bank than others cover during their entire career. When I joined, I told the program manager what experiences I wanted to have, so at the end, I could make an informed decision about where I wanted to go next.
“There was no single rotation that stood out from the others,” Branner says, “but I couldn’t do my job today without the experiences I had with each one.”
Helping bring in new talent
She’s a member of Bank of America’s Women in Technology & Operations. “Our mission is recruiting and retaining women in the fields of technology and operations. There aren’t many women in the field so this organization creates an environment where women can share experiences and learn from one another.
“I want to do more with the leadership development program,” Branner says. “One of my passions is working with young engineers and technicians. I do a lot of mentoring sessions, speaking and recruiting. I want to make sure that I can help lead the way as the bank continues to focus on this area.”
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