A survey conducted by MNC Financial Inc. shows that the state's biggest banking company suffered a mild erosion in market share among medium-sized business customers through 1991 but retained its dominant position in the Baltimore-Washington area despite financial problems.
The survey included nine regional banking companies that were used by companies with $5 million to $50 million in annual sales.
It was the first indication of how well the area's banks have done in retaining the middle-market companies that make up the bulk of the region's corporate banking customers.
Over the four years that ended in November, the proportion of middle-market companies that named MNC, parent of Maryland National Bank and American Security Bank, as their lead banking company fell to 20 percent from 24 percent, according to the MNC survey, a copy of which was obtained by The Sun yesterday.
Sovran Bank, now part of North Carolina-based NationsBank Corp., remained steady in second place as lead bank for about 14 percent of the companies surveyed.
Third-place Signet Banking Corp., parent of Signet Bank/Maryland, pulled ahead of First American Bank of Washington during the four-year period with 11 percent.
During the same period, the companies that said they use MNC in one capacity or another dropped slightly, to about 32 percent last year from 35 percent in 1988.
No bank showed a dramatic rise in market share in the Baltimore-Washington region, although Signet and First Maryland Bancorp, in 1988 ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, moved up one place by the end of last year when rated by companies naming their lead banks.
In the Baltimore area, First Maryland, which owns First National Bank of Maryland, lost market share as a lead bank in 1989, dropping to about 15 percent from 18 percent the year before, according to the survey. First Maryland then moved up to about 20 percent in 1991.
Signet held third place during the four years, ending up with about 13 percent of lead banking customers in the Baltimore area last year, while Mercantile Bankshares Corp. held onto fourth place, at just under 10 percent of the market.
MNC, with $16.7 billion in assets, saw a slight gain in market share, to about 35 percent in 1989, but then fell back to about 31 percent in the Baltimore area last year.
"Despite the company's well-documented problems in the last 18 to 24 months, the fact that the firm is still dominant confirms the company's franchise in the region," said Daniel G. Finney, MNC spokesman.
Mr. Finney said the $5 million to $50 million middle market is "one of the most substantial components of the engine that's driving MNC. . . . This is the core of our business."
The survey, prepared for MNC's wholesale banking division, also showed that the company still has a public perception problem but that the problem is beginning to ease.
From April to November last year, the percentage of companies that said their impression of Maryland National had worsened over the previous 12 months dropped to 36 percent from 44 percent.
At the same time, 26 percent of the respondents said in November that their impressions of Maryland National had improved over the past year, compared with 14 percent in April.
In the Baltimore area, Mercantile-Safe Deposit and Trust Co., the main subsidiary of Mercantile Bankshares, had the best public image as of November.
Perceptions of the company's stability and loan availability had improved since April 1991, according to the survey.