Riggs National Corp. told shareholders yesterday it is determined not to lose out to new competitors in the regional market as interstate banking barriers are removed.

At the annual meeting of the company -- the parent of Washington's biggest bank -- Chairman Joe L. Allbritton said the Riggs board is looking to take advantage of legislation passed this week in Maryland that would allow it to enter that state. Riggs will "do a better job in combating anticipatory competition in Maryland than any other bank" in the region, he added.

Maryland legislators approved a bill to let Citicorp establish full-service banks in the state within two years. They also passed a regional interstate banking bill that will allow banks in the District and nearby states to acquire and later establish banks there on a reciprocal basis.

Allbritton reminded stockholders that although Riggs has not enjoyed the legal right to cross state lines, it has been a major lender in Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland. He said Riggs had done more for the respective regions than banks in Richmond or Baltimore, and so claimed that base as "more divinely ours than anyone else's."

Allbritton said Riggs would prefer to start a new bank in the state or join healthy partners rather than acquire a nearly defunct bank; he said Riggs' highly liquid position would help it meet that goal.

The interstate banking legislation would allow banks from states nearest Maryland acquire or merge with Maryland banks starting in July. The so-called Citicorp bill would permit Citicorp and other out-of-state banks to establish new banks there provided each agrees to invest at least $25 million and hire a minimum of 1,000 people.

Riggs that said its first-quarter earnings increased by 2 percent to $7.29 million ($1.22 per share) from $7.15 million ($1.20) in the same period last year. Assets rose by 11.7 percent to $4.87 billion, and deposits were up by 12.9 percent to $3.87 billion. Loan activity increased by 13.9 percent to $2.07 billion.