Community banks often say they are under more earnings pressure than ever, and data compiled on the top 200 in the country bears that out. Even as economic recovery begins, the performance of these banks as a group continues to reflect stress. 

Last year it took a three-year return on average equity of at least 8 percent for a bank to make its way onto the list of best performers. But this year 7 percent is enough. And once again, less than half of the banks managed to post double digits.

The advantage of being in an area that escaped the worst of the real estate boom and bust also became more pronouced. Though 38 states have banks on the list, four from the Middle Atlantic region—Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and Virginia—are the only ones with more than 10 banks each. New York had 22, Ohio, 17, and Virginia, 12. But Pennsylvania blew away all the others by far, with a whopping 20 percent of the top banks with less than $2 billion of assets calling that state home. It has claimed the most banks on the list for three years running—41 this year, up from 31 last year and 24 the year before.

Of those in the top 10, six institutions made a repeat showing, including HBancorporation, which took the lead for a third consecutive year, and Guaranty Bridge Bancorp, Arrow Financial and Minster Financial returned for a second year. 

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.