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Rhonda MacLean: Bankable leadership in financial information security

Rhonda MacLean believes her success in infosec comes from finding and hiring the right people.

Rhonda MacLean Senior VP and Director of Corporate Information Security, Bank of America

Rhonda MacLean
Rhonda MacLean

Several months ago, a congressional panelist asked former U.S. cybersecurity czar Richard Clarke which he deemed more secure--the private or the public sector?

"The private sector," he responded, explaining that it had more people who knew what they were doing. "The best example is Bank of America. And the best example of someone who knows what they're doing is Rhonda MacLean."

Sitting several rows behind Clarke, waiting to testify in the next hearing, was a slightly surprised but nonetheless proud MacLean.

As senior VP and director of corporate information security for one of the world's largest financial institutions--with some $680 billion in assets, 4,400 branches and nearly 13,000 ATMs serving 32 million customers--MacLean is at the pinnacle of her profession. She oversees a multimillion-dollar budget and 400-plus staff devoted to protecting the North Carolina-based company's networks, data and reputation.

"We're in the business of selling trust. We're asking people to trust us with their money, their financial future and all their personal information," says MacLean, who's responsible for the company's infosecurity policy, procedures, risk management, security technology implementation, cybercrime investigations and security awareness programs.

As if that weren't enough, MacLean serves on numerous federal and state boards, associations and committees, most devoted to IT security. The U.S. Department of the Treasury last May named MacLean the private sector coordinator for financial services for its public-private partnership on critical infrastructure protection. She's since created the model program for other groups to follow.

On the home front, despite a crowded calendar, MacLean still finds time to tend her impressive home gardens and cook in her commercial-grade kitchen. She recently returned from two weeks in the Caribbean to celebrate her 20th wedding anniversary. She met her husband Lynn, a pilot, when she worked as senior manager for computer and communications security at Boeing, which she left in 1996 for Bank of America.

MacLean doesn't like to draw attention to herself or her company, lest hackers consider it a challenge. It's one reason she won't divulge the size of her budget.

But she gladly talks about the people who work for her, believing her success comes in part from "always hiring people smarter than me." In fact, she considers her hires-from the Secret Service, National Security Agency and other law enforcement and intelligence posts-among her greatest accomplishments.

"She looks for the best and usually gets them-and that's not because they want to live in Charlotte," Clarke says. "It's because people want to be part of her team."

Article 2 of 17
This was last published in September 2003

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