For Terry J. Jorde, North Dakota's requirement that no bank control more than a quarter of the state's deposits has ensured her $25 million-asset bank can compete against giants such as Norwest Corp. and U.S. Bancorp.

"Having a cap is important," said Ms. Jorde, president and CEO of CountryBank USA, Cando, N.D. "The larger the bank, the more it can afford to bleed until there is not any competition. There is only so long that a (small) bank can compete against a financial giant that can afford to bleed."

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