So far, so good for individual consumers, small businesses and others who are looking today to the state Senate in Annapolis for enactment of two bills that would bring healthy competition to banking in Maryland. One measure, a compromise approved by the Senate's Finance Committee Monday night, would permit New York's Citicorp to open 20 branches in Maryland by 1988. Citicorp would open a large credit card service center near Hagerstown that would employ at least 750 people there and 250 more elsewhere in the state. Other out-of-state banks that meet certain requirements also could begin doing business in Maryland. The second bill would allow interstate banking on a restricted basis.
Lobbyists for the Maryland Banking Association are still trying to portray Citicorp as some sort of "monster" that is hell-bent on gobbling up all the poor little banks of Maryland. This ignores the fact that even in its home state of New York, Citibank has only 3 percent of the upstate market; by our count, that leaves 97 percent of that market in the hands of competitors. And it leaves individuals with more chances to shop for lower rates on loans, higher rates on deposits and greater availability of credit.
The compromise Citicorp bill, if enacted without any more weakening amendments, can bring Marylanders some of the benefits of new business in the state -- including jobs for an area that needs them desperately. The second bill, while too restrictive, at least would permit some interstate banking. Can Marylanders bank on the support of their senators for these two important measures?