A New York investment firm today disputed budget director Bert Lance's citation of the Calhoun (Ga.) First National Bank's growth performance in defense of his achievements as a banker.

Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc., an investment firm that specializes in bank stocks and tracks 14,000 U.S. banks in its computers, counts the Calhoun bank far below par according to key performance measures when compared with other Georgia banks its size.

One important benchmark that analysts use in comparing how banks are run is the ratio of earnings to total assets.

By that measure, the Calhoun bank - as compared with nine other Georgia banks in the same $40 million to $60 million asset category - ranked last in 1972, 1973 and 1974 and ninth in 1975 and 1976.

The reasons for the Calhoun bank's relatively poor earnings performance, according to Keefe, Bruyette analysts, were above-average noninterest expenses, such as salary and overhead, and a higher-than-average loan loss experience.

Another yardstick is the ratio of a bank's equity capital to its total assets. This measures the safety cushion to protect depositors against possible losses.

The Calhoun bank's ratio of equity capital to total assets was the lowest of the 10 banks for all five years.