American Security Bank apparently will win a race by D.C.-based commercial banks to open an office in Baltimore, as a trend toward regional banking intensifies.

Chairman W. Jarvis Moody of ASB said yesterday that his institution, with assets of $2.7 billion, will open a corporate lending office in downtown Baltimore early next month.

The bank, a subsidiary of American Security Corp., will put up its sign at 201 N. Charles St., in the heart of Baltimore's financial district and near the inner harbor and trade center area.

Riggs National Bank of Washington also has been planning for a Baltimore office, and two banks based in Baltimore are moving loan offices into the District, partly to have a banking presence established if out-of-state banking is permitted by Congress in future years.

First National Bank of Washington, the second-largest in that state, opened its D.C. office in May. Maryland National Bank, the largest in Maryland, plans to open here this summer with a similar loan office.Banks based in the Maryland suburbs of the District, such as Suburban Trust Co. and Citizens Bank, already operate full banking branches in the Baltimore market, and Baltimore banks long have been active in the Maryland suburbs.

Until now, however, the big Washington and Baltimore banks never have had even limited banking facilities in the rival cities, although they have conducted commercial business through travel and other connections.

"Over a period of years, we have developed a corporate customer base in Baltimore, and this move is a natural extension of our growing commitment to what is now referred to as the Baltimore-Washington common market," Moody said.

"We see a lot of good things happening in Baltimore -- things that are already attracting new domestic and foreign business interests," he added.

The ASB office will be headed by a vice president, with professional lending offices and staff to be added as business grows. The Baltimore office will be the fifth corporate lending facility operated outside of Washington by ASB. Currently, the bank has the most non-D.C. offices by a local bank -- in Richmond, Cincinnati, Birmingham and New Orleans, as well as an international banking subsidiary in Miami.

"Our business plan in establishing these offices has been to work with local banks in serving the needs of business in the local area," Moody said. "We have been able to establish a cooperative and mutually beneficial atmosphere in every city, and the program has been very successful in extending our markets and providing steady, healthy growth for our company over the past few years."

The Baltimore office will work on corporate and business loans as well as new business development in the corporate loan area.