Marsha S. Henderson does not regret having switched early on from retailing to banking.

There are a lot of opportunities in the banking industry, and it can be a rewarding career," said Ms. Henderson, 43, a senior vice president in private banking at Norstar Bank, Buffalo.

She's about to get a new perspective on those opportunities. Next week in Washington, at the 69th annual convention of financial Womem International, Ms. Henderson will start a one-year term as the group's president.

The gathering of the 17,000-member organization, formerly the National Association of Bank Women, will start Monday and end Wednesday.

Navigating Turbulent Waters

The group's mission is to empower the industry's growing cadre of womem professionals to achieve their professional, personal, and economic goals and influence the future shape of the industry. Ms. Henderson sais would focus on members' needs during today's tough times.

"We can utilize our skills to stay in the industry," said Ms. Henderson, a member of the trade group for 12 years. "Our industry needs all the talent it can muster.

"There is a better atmosphere for women in the financial industry today, and they're making up part of the senior management," said Ms. Henderson. "But there is a need to draw more from this pool of talent by the industry."

Women make up over 40% of the management ranks of the financial services industry, yet only 2% of top managers are women, she said. Trends indicate that women will make up nearly half the total work force by the year 2000.

Financial Women International is fighting the "glass ceiling" that has prevented women from reaching the top of the corporate ladder. For this reason, the association supports Title III of the Women's equal Opportunity Act of 1991, legislation designed to encourage corporations to eleminate the glass ceiling.

A workshop at the convention will address that issue.

"We will also be focusing on professional-skills development and our transitional pilot program, which helps members to look for new areas of work," Ms. Henderson said.

"These are challenging times in the industry, and we're working hard to provide what our membership needs today," she said. "I will be serving as chief executive officer of a business that will have a direct application to my profession."

extensive Service

Ms. Henderson has served in a number of positions at Financial Women International, most recently as national vice president for 1990-91. She was national secretary for 1989-90, foundation trustee in 1985-88, national awards and scholarships chairwoman in 1984-85, and president of the western New York group in 1983-84.

She earned a bachelor of science degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo and an MBA from Canisius College, Buffalo. After a brief stint working for a department store, she joined Manufacturers and Traders Trust Co., a subsidiary of Buffalo-based First Empire State Corp. She stayed for 19 years until joining Fleet/norstar Financial Group's Buffalo unit last year.

As head of private banking, serving affluent professinals and entrepreneurs, she has noted a surge in new businesses, fueled in part by restructuring in her own profession.

"People are leaving the industry to form their own business, and private banking is an area that is growing," Ms. Henderson said

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