The best performers among banks and thrifts with less than $2 billion of assets aren't just marginally better than their overall peer group — they're more than twice as good.

The top 200 institutions in this size range that are either publicly traded or file with the Securities and Exchange Commission are ranked here, based on their average return on equity over the past three years.

For 2011, those that earned a spot on this list had a median ROE of 10.09 percent, versus 4.44 percent for the overall peer group. The ROE gap is even wider measured by the three-year average, with the median for the top 200 institutions at 9.56 percent, versus the peer group's 2.69 percent, data from SNL Financial indicates.

In general, the more profitable tend to be larger. The median asset size of those on the list is $553.1 million. But for all 1,012 institutions fitting the selection criteria, the median is $343.9 million.

The net interest margins and total risk-based capital ratios of the best don't show a dramatic deviation from the larger group. But one category with a marked difference is noninterest income. In 2011, the top performers had median noninterest income of $3.48 million, versus $2 million for the larger group.

Though 36 states are represented in this annual ranking, the Middle Atlantic region dominates, with 43 banks hailing from Pennsylvania, 26 from New York, 16 from Ohio and 15 from Virginia. Only one other state is home to more than 10—California, with 12.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.