Community banks traditionally have been viewed as having expertise in making credit decisions on small, local business borrowers. And to be sure, smaller banks devote more of their balance sheets to these kinds of customers. But giants like Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo have been bulking up in this area, hiring hundreds of small-business bankers, as the tide moves against their smaller competitors.

Given the consolidation trends in the banking sector, it's hard for small institutions to hold onto share in any loan market. It's much harder in small-business lending, where the volume on credit cards—which mostly are issued by big banks—has been the only part of the business to have shown stability in recent periods. (The following graphic shows market share for small business loans by bank asset-size category and other data on small business loans. Interactive controls are described in the captions. Text continues below.)

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