DENISE BOUTROSS Executive vice president DKB Financial Products, New York

Denise Boutross, 39, hit the headlines in 1991 when she was named to set up a new international derivatives unit at Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank, the world's largest banking company.

Her appointment was news not only because she was one of the highest-level women ever hired by a Japanese bank but also because her experience is expected to help her create a world-class derivatives operation.

Starting new ventures is nothing new for Ms. Boutross. Before joining Dai-Ichi's DKB Financial Products Inc., she helped bring Security Pacific Corp. into the lucrative swaps business in 1985 and was later named cohead of SecPac's global interest rate and currency risk management.

Her Security Pacific stint came after nearly two years with First Chicago Corp., where she oversaw all dollar-denominated interest rate swaps and also marketed derivatives to clients. Before that, she had worked at the Student Loan Marketing Association in Washington, helping start a swaps group and rising to become Sallie Mae's director of corporate finance.

"Managing a swaps groups, you have to know everything," she says. "It's analytical; it's management; it entails everything."

Ms. Boutross holds a master's degree in business administration from American University and a bachelor's in business from Dunbarton College in Washington.

Besides her own ample talent, Ms. Boutross will be drawing on Dai-Ichi's double-A credit rating and its blue-chip client list. In fact, strong credit ratings are becoming a prerequisite for those who want to play in the derivatives arena, and that, no doubt, was part of Dai-Ichi's attraction.

"Swaps business keeps migrating to the strongest institution," says Mr. Boutross.

If her view of the banking industry proves prescient, chief executives would be well advised to continue building their capital. Asked who will best weather the banking industry's current shakeout, Ms. Boutross replies in her usual, rapid-fire style: "anybody with a good credit rating is going to have the most presence."

Clearly, she likes her new perch.

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