Provident Bankshares is getting ready for a change of leadership.

Peter M. Martin, president and chief operating officer of the $3.7 billion-asset Baltimore bank, will become chairman and chief executive officer April 15.

Mr. Martin, 60, will take over for the departing Carl W. Stearn, 64, who has been chairman and chief executive since 1990.

Both men have presided over the bank during a period of rapid growth. Since 1990 Provident has blossomed from $1.3 billion of assets and 38 branches to $3.7 billion and 64 branches.

The bank has also recently expanded into supermarkets, with 13 in-store branches.

Mr. Martin said in a telephone interview that he plans to forge ahead with a strategy of growth through the development of key businesses as well as acquisitions.

"We are constantly looking for new avenues to explore," he said.

Three-quarters of the bank's business comes from consumer banking services, Mr. Martin said. Some of its biggest revenue generators are home equity loans and indirect auto loans. The bank also has a $230 million commercial loan portfolio and a $260 million commercial real estate portfolio.

Provident sells mutual funds and annuities through licensed employees, and it has just begun to "dabble" in sales of term life insurance products, Mr. Martin said. He said the bank is also considering establishing a joint venture or partnership to expand its insurance sales capabilities.

Out-of-market acquisitions are also a possibility, Mr. Martin said. Provident's home base includes Baltimore County and the surrounding counties of Anne Arundel, Harford, and Howard in Maryland.

In August, Provident acquired Citizens Savings Bank of Gaithersburg, Md., with $700 million of assets, in a $100 million deal that expanded the bank into Maryland's Frederick County and the rapidly growing suburban communities of Montgomery County.

Provident picked up 13 branches with the Citizens acquisition.

But Mr. Martin said the high price of bank deals may delay any more acquisitions for the time being. "We are not going to grow just for growth's sake."

Mr. Martin joined Provident in 1990 after his employer, Equitable Bancorp., a $5 billion-asset company, was acquired by Maryland National Bank. He had been Equitable's executive vice president.

Before that he was a senior vice president and division head for banking operations and marketing at Bank of Boston Corp., now called BankBoston Corp.

Mr. Stearn, who also came to Provident in 1990 from Equitable-he was president and a director-will remain a director of Provident and will head its executive committee. He will also act as a consultant during the transition period.

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