A new survey that attempts to measure customer loyalty shows that New York-area customers of Charlotte, N.C.-based First Union Corp. think more highly of their bank than customers of local heavyweights Citicorp and Chase Manhattan Corp.

First Union bested the second-ranked Citicorp in three of the four survey categories: cost, customer service, and accuracy. Citicorp ranked ahead in the fourth category, personal treatment.

The next three on the list, in order, were Chase, Fleet Financial Group, and Bank of New York Co.

Brand Keys Inc., a New York image consulting firm, conducted the survey. Results reflect the responses of 500 consumers in New York City and its suburbs. Scores for each bank were based on responses from 100 of each of the bank's customers.

"We are measuring the strength of the emotional response customers have to their bank," said Steve McCloskey, a senior vice president and consultant at Brand Keys.

Spokesmen for the banks said they had not seen the survey and could not comment on its results. But other surveys have reached different conclusions.

Frederick Hill, a spokesman for Chase, New York's biggest retail bank with 500 branches and 21% of the area's deposits, said a similar study conducted by the bank last year showed Chase in second place behind Citi. First Union did not appear on the bank's short list of strong brands in the New York market, he said.

First-ranked First Union has the smallest presence in the area, with 54 branches and 0.5% of deposit market share, according to Sheshunoff Information Services.

Meanwhile, Citi has 174 branches and 9.24% of the market; Fleet has 411 branches and 4.58% of the market; and Bank of New York has 261 branches and 5.52% of the market, according to Sheshunoff.

The survey found that cost of services was the most important factor for First Union, which had a score of 121, 15 points higher than Citi and 7 points higher than a hypothetical ideal bank. "First Union has done a better job of exceeding customers' expectations," the survey found.

The survey compares each bank's scores with those of a hypothetical bank. That "ideal" bank scored 114 for cost of service, 101 for personal treatment, 98 for customer service, and 97 for accuracy and efficiency.

Both First Union and Citicorp outranked the ideal bank by those measures. Brand Keys would not provide the scores for the other three banks, citing proprietary reasons.

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