Eleven years after it was founded to serve the growing number of women in the business world, First Women's Bank of Maryland last week appointed a man as its third president and chief executive.

Clyde Paul Smith, 51, replaces Deborah MacGuire at the Rockville-based bank. MacGuire resigned in January because she disagreed with the bank's directors about the future direction of First Women's.

Bank Chairman Joan Schonholtz insisted that First Women's has not changed its commitment to women, but said the bank wants business from all segments of the population. "I just think it's emphasizing the fact that we do serve the male population of Montgomery County as well as the female {population}," she said.

Some women business executives in the area criticized the appointment, which leaves Adams National Bank of Washington as the area's only financial institution both owned and operated by women.

"The effect it will have on women business owners in Montgomery County is, 'Why should I go there now?' " said Linda Bolliger, coordinator of small- and home-based business workshops for the local chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.

Sarah Milholen, president of the National Council of Career Women, said the decision was disappointing. "It never dawned on me that the president wouldn't be a woman," she said. "It's another management position gone to a man when you would think that they should have been able to find a woman."

Smith said he hadn't given the issue much though before taking the job, but did not consider it a liability. "Our focus is on individuals and business people in the community, without discrimination on the basis of sex or any one of a number of other things," he said.

Schonholtz lauded Smith's background and said that he had come up through the ranks of the banking industry, working as a teller in Harrisburg, Pa., in the 1960s and holding management positions at Signet Bank, Farmers and Merchant State Bank and Crestar Bank before becoming president and chief executive at Federal City National Bank in Washington in 1988.

During his tenure at Federal City, the bank went from a $500,000 loss in 1988 to a profit of $280,000 in 1989, while assets grew to $33 million from $20 million. He said more stringent loan requirements and better workouts of nonperforming loans spurred the turnaround.

Smith said his goal at First Women's is to emphasize customer service in an attempt to increase assets from $80 million to $100 million by 1992. He recalled a staff meeting he ran at Crestar in the mid-1980s as evidence of his longtime emphasis on the subject.

"I told the employees to treat the customers like they would want their mothers to be treated at a bank," he said. "That's the bottom line."

Smith stressed that the bank serves both men and women and said that although "there was a time when women did not get equal banking services as a general rule," banks operated specifically for women are no longer necessary.

"Traditional discrimination against women and credit still exists," countered Barbara Blum, president of Adams National Bank. "It's just covert instead of overt."

Blum said Adams National's board would not consider naming a man as president and chief executive. "There are so many women who are qualified in banking now, in this region and elsewhere," she said. "If the top is going to be cut off, even in a women-owned bank, it says that the glass ceiling is being lowered."

Milholen said women-owned and operated banks are still important, especially as more women launch home-based businesses or juggle careers with family responsibilities. "It's still too early to say that that's not a need," she said. "It's going to take a long time."