Take a stroll down Tryon Street in the heart of Charlotte's Uptown central business district and try not to be impressed.
On the north end stands the headquarters of Bank of America, the nation’s second-largest banking institution, and on the south is the East Coast headquarters of Wells Fargo Bank, fourth-largest in the country. A host of other major financial services including Fifth Third, Ally, Citco Fund Services and companies that serve the industry, such as Fiserv, have a major footprint in Charlotte. With more than $2.13 trillion in assets held at the end of 2011, Charlotte is the second-largest financial center in the United States, surpassed only by New York City. Banking helps make Charlotte’s economy tick. The sector employs more than 67,000 people.
“Bank of America is an integral part of this community, and we are proud to be in a city that offers our employees a variety of educational and artistic venues to enjoy, affordable places to call home and an expanding transportation system to meet the ever-growing number of families that move to the area," says Charles Bowman, Bank of America's North Carolina president. "We are honored to have played an important role in building Charlotte as it has grown over the years, and look forward to being an important player in the city’s future.”
A Leader in Cybersecurity
The banking industry has been more than just a catalyst for the Charlotte region’s economic vibrancy. The region's lengthy legacy as a center of financial services has spawned expertise and innovation on a number of fronts, perhaps none more important than cybersecurity.
“Financial services are based on a sacred trust with the customer,” says Martin Davis, executive vice president and head of technology integration at Wells Fargo. “Information is the lifeblood of any organization and it must be secured. As part of Wells Fargo's values and commitment to our customers, there is no question that safeguarding customer information and information security is a top priority.” The banking community regularly collaborates with UNC Charlotte’s College of Computing and Informatics to explore new technologies to combat cyber threats. “We are excited about the work being done at UNC Charlotte’s College of Computing and Informatics. We believe that advancements in cybersecurity can be accelerated by bringing together experts from the academic and business worlds,” says Patrick Gorman, Bank of America chief information security officer.
“Through our partnership with UNC Charlotte, we can help guide research and development and translate the results into real solutions for our business."
Leveraging UNC Charlotte
UNC Charlotte has had strong relationships with financial service companies in the region that date back several years, says Bill Chu, Ph.D., chair of UNC Charlotte’s Department of Software and Information Systems. “Cybersecurity is an excellent example of how such relationships can benefit both the college and the financial community,” Chu says. In 2001, UNC Charlotte launched an annual Security and Privacy Symposium, which has been held for 13 consecutive years. The symposium draws top-notch national experts in privacy and security to Charlotte. Attendance has exceeded more than 500 each year for the last three years. Attendees include IT professionals working for financial service companies in Charlotte – the region boasts more than 25,000 IT professionals in its workforce – making the symposium an important part of their continuing education.
The event is also well attended by students, as it not only complements their classroom learning, but provides networking opportunities with working professionals. “We have also worked on a number of research projects for the financial service companies on important topics that directly impact their security planning and operations,” Chu says.