Provident Bancorp. in Cincinnati plans to beef up its small-business offerings this year.

"Everybody is going after the same customers" in Cincinnati, said P. Thomas Moudgal, vice president and commercial product manager. "We need to gain market share by developing these products and going after our competitors' customers."

Provident will be promoting a money market account, debit and ATM cards, and a daily fax service for small-business account balances and transactions.

"It's a fully blown offering," Mr. Moudgal said.

The bank also plans to introduce an overdraft line of credit and letters of credit for small-business exporters.

With $6.6 billion of assets, Provident is the smallest of the major Cincinnati-based banks, trailing $20 billion-asset Fifth Third Bancorp and $10 billion-asset Star Banc Corp. All three also compete for small-business customers with Banc One Corp., Key Corp , and PNC Corp.

Mr. Moudgal, who joined Provident 10 months ago from First Commerce Corp. in New Orleans, had previously worked in product development for Banc One.

Columbus, Ohio-based Banc One and Provident approach the small-business market in much the same way, he said.

Star Banc also has products like those being planned at Provident, and it is now rolling out small-ticket leasing for items such as computers and copiers, said Steven Budd, the bank's small-business product manager.

"Small business has been overlooked in the past," he said. "The competition is increasing."

Meanwhile, Fifth Third already has a full slate of small-business offerings, said Dan Kitzmiller, manager of the business development group. Fifth Third also plans to introduce a business debit card and retool the pricing on its checking accounts, he said.

In addition, Fifth Third is promoting small-ticket leasing and retirement plans for small-business employees.

Most banks can offer comparable products, so Fifth Third tries to differentiate itself by offering better services and building relationships with customers, Mr. Kitzmiller said.

"Our challenge is not only to maintain the market share we have but also to increase it," he said. The important factor "is the kind of relationships you develop."

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