Community banks can maintain their share of small-business customers by offering mutual funds, insurance, and financial planning, according to a recent study by Payment Systems Inc.

Small-business lending is one of the most competitive markets in the country, with Merrill Lynch & Co. and superregionals like Wells Fargo & Co. and First Union Corp. fighting for customers.

The study by the Tampa research group found that doctors and dentists in private practice are among community banks' most loyal customers.

Doctors and dentists tend to value personal service, and they keep their business and personal accounts at one institution, which can make them highly lucrative customers.

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