As luck would have it, Deborah Talbot, the latest rising star in Chase Manhattan Corp.'s Infoserv operations unit, just wasn't cut out to be a schoolteacher.

Fresh out of Memphis State University in 1972 with an undergraduate degree in math, the Halls, Tenn., native took a teaching job at a local high school.

"Being raised in the South, I was supposed to be a mother, wife, and schoolteacher," Ms. Talbot said.

But after a month, Ms. Talbot quit her teaching job. "I guess I sort of struck out," she said.

Ms. Talbot isn't striking out now, however.

The 43-year-old Chase senior vice president has been appointed to one of the most influential positions in the New York financial establishment.

As head of a new Infoserv unit called Global Payment and Treasury Services, Ms. Talbot supervises the activities of nearly 2,000 Chase employees, as they handle half-a-trillion dollars a day of electronic funds transfers and trade financing.

She is to be officially welcomed in two weeks at a luncheon hosted by her boss, Chase executive vice president Michael Urkowitz, the head of Infoserv.

In an interview, Ms. Talbot attributed her professional rise to luck and flexibility.

The luck started when she quit teaching - because friends told Ms. Talbot of what she called a "great opportunity" at Union Planters Bank in Memphis.

Process Engineer

Soon, Ms. Talbot was part of a team of new hires - selected from outside the banking industry - who who were assigned to do the type of efficiency work that consultants now call process engineering.

In 1974, equipped with a valuable set of skills from her stint at Union Planters, Ms. Talbot decided that she wanted to leave Memphis.

On a vacation trip, she dropped off her resume at with officials from Delaware Trust Co. in Wilmington. She soon had a job there as a senior operations executive

There Ms. Talbot helped install some of the first on-line automatic teller machines in the country, and helped develop one of the first direct-deposit programs for paychecks.

In 1977, Ms. Talbot was considering going to business school at Wharton. A friend convinced her to become a bank consultant with KPMG Peat Marwick instead. There she spent five years working with banks on payment systems, operations, and ATMs.

Career Move

But Ms. Talbot said she eventually tired of the consultant's curse of "spending 85%" of her time on the road.

So in 1982 she took a more sedentary job with Chase as a vice president in the check processing area.

Soon Ms. Talbot was promoted to run Chase's student loan products. Then, in 1987, she became chief financial officer of Chase's retail bank, reporting to Chase's current president, Arthur F. Ryan, who also has a background in operations.

Ms. Talbot subsequently managed Chase's jumbo mortgages and in 1991 she took over responsibility for Chase's private banking operations in the United States.

Ms. Talbot moved into her current position in August.

During her rise at Chase, she said, she has received valuable help from a "well-known" Chase executive, whom she declined to name.

Adapting to the Unexpected

But apart from that, she said, her biggest asset has been being able to accept and adapt to the unexpected.

"It's difficult to tell people what to do to get to where I am," Ms. Talbot said. "The critical part is that I've been very flexible in taking opportunities."

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