The cash management services offered by Firstar Corp. were ranked best in the nation in a soonto-be-published survey of corporations that use such services.

The survey, conducted by Corporate Finance, a New York-based quarterly trade magazine, asked cash managers at 1,000 firms to rate their bank's performance in four areas: cash concentration, cash disbursement, lockbox, and short-term cash management.

The survey asked corporate cash managers to name the best banks on a scale of one to four, with one being "excellent" and four "awful."

The Milwaukee-based bank had the best overall score, followed closely by Wachovia Corp., Winston-Salem, N.C., and First Chicago Corp.

Firstar, a $14 billion-asset institution, had the highest score in cash concentration. Mellon Bank Corp., Pittsburgh, ranked second.

Continental Bank Corp., Chicago - which has since merged with BankAmerica Corp. - was named the best bank for lockbox services.

The highest score in the cash disbursement area went to WaChovia. The Wall Street firm Lehman Brothers scored best in the short-term cash management category.

The bank that appeared most often in the survey - some 281 times - was NationsBank Corp.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank was also one of three institutions to rank highly in all four categories. That distinction also went to PNC Bank Corp., Pittsburgh, and NBD Bancorp, Detroit.

Roberta Drews, business manager with Firstar, which received 60 mentions, noted that the frequency with which a bank was named was tied to the institution's market share. "I think the survey shows that we although we don't have a large share, we have a strong affinity with our customers," Ms. Drews added,

She also credited Firstar's top ranking to the bank's history as a data processing and check collection processor for Midwest businesses. With that base of corporate clients, she said, Firstar was well positioned to expand those relationships when the era of offering cash management services took off in the 1970s.

James Graham, senior vice president with PNC, credited that high rank to the extensive information it provided customers, an expanded offering of products, and a "unique" work force operation, especially in lockbox processing.

Rather than an assembly-line style for the 18 different functions of lockbox processing, the bank has one person who handles the process from start to finish, Mr. Graham said.

Other banks that earned high marks for cash management services were National City Corp., Chemical Banking Corp., and Cit;corp. Rounding out the top 10 list was Chase Manhattan Corp.

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