Community banks are beating their big-bank competitors in the battle for small-business customers, according to industry experts, by keeping product lines simple and offering more personalized service.

At a conference here this week, Kathleen C. McClave, a consultant at Tillinghast-Towers Perrin in New York, said small-business owners prefer community banks because they have access to senior managers who are knowledgeable about the banks' products and can make loan decisions quickly.

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