Barbara Stymiest had a busy summer. In July, the 14-handicapper partnered with professional golfer Fred Couples to win the Pro-Am at the RBC Canadian Open in Toronto. She also caught a six-pound salmon while fly-fishing near her family cottage in New Brunswick. Those are no small feats, but it can be argued that both pale in comparison to her work in helping North America's sixth-largest bank, Royal Bank of Canada, navigate through a rocky credit environment.

As chief operating officer, Stymiest, applies a keen strategic sense to RBC operations. She's devoted a lot of time to creating a risk-management process that is constantly scenario testing and setting limits to achieve the best risk-adjusted returns. "We have articulated our risk appetite with very clear metrics," she explains, adding that while many banks have been surprised by fallout from the subprime crisis, "our results are well within our expectations."

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