Tired of losing deposits to out-of-state banks, Maryland banking officials are trying to make the state's bank charter more attractive to federal thrifts.

A 16-member task force led by state financial commissioner H. Robert Hergenroeder Jr. is asking the Maryland General Assembly to consider streamlining the conversion process and modernizing the state's banking code.

Doing so, Mr. Hergenroeder said, could help stem deposit losses-$6 billion since 1992-that have come as a result of Maryland bank mergers with out-of-state banks. "The deposits are moving south, to Richmond and to the Carolinas," Mr. Hergenroeder said.

Maryland is one of several states that have taken action in recent months to make in-state charters more appealing. With Congress mulling legislation to eliminate the federal thrift charter, a number of states are rewriting banking regulations in hopes of retaining the state charters they have and persuading national thrifts to charter as state banks.

For example, Maine has adopted what's called a universal bank charter that allows all state-chartered banks, thrifts, and savings banks to share powers that had been unique to each charter.

California has eased the regulatory burden on its state-chartered banks by streamlining the process for opening, closing, or moving branches, and deleting or amending nearly all the state's banking rules.

"If we get conversions, that's great, but this is really about making our charter as attractive as possible," said Donald W. Groves, chief bank examiner with the Maine Bureau of Banking. "We want to make sure that our banks have reasonable options available to them."

One state, Connecticut, has created a whole new charter in hopes of encouraging more start-up banks.

The new community bank charter reduces capital requirements for start-up banks from $5 million to $3 million, and expands the range of services community banks can offer.

Ellen Lamb, a spokeswoman with the Conference of State Bank Supervisors, said state banking offices are restructuring regulations to make their states more business-friendly.

"The fewer bank charters you have, the less your ability to shape economic policy through bank regulations."

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