Putting together a ranking of top-performing banks sure isn´t as easy as it used to be.

Included in the August issue of U.S. Banker (which was put to bed this week) is a list of the top 100 mid-tier bank holding companies, ranked by three-year average return on equity from 2006 through 2008. But to get to that 100, the editors had to bend the rules a bit.

Initially, the plan was to publish a ranking of the top 200, classifying mid-tiers as those banks with between $2 billion and $6 billion of assets. But when we received the data from SNL Financial LC, we found two problems: no longer are there even 200 banks and thrifts in that $2 billion to $6 billion universe; and many of the banks and thrifts in that class performed so poorly in 2008 that their three-year average ROE was actually in negative territory.

(Time for a quick disclaimer: SNL´s list includes public banks and thrifts traded on major exchanges, bulletin boards and pink sheets, as well as privately held institutions that file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Privately held institutions that don´t file with SEC are not included.)

Anyway, we then decided to widen the field a bit, to include banks and thrifts with up to $10 billion of assets, but that didn´t give us much more to work with. As of Dec. 31, there were fewer than 150 banks and thrifts in this group, and many of them had returns on equity below zero.

After briefly contemplating expanding the field again, to banks with assets of up to $20 billion, we decided to ditch the whole top-200 idea and go with a top 100 instead. So here it is, the top 100 banks and thrifts with $2 billion to $10 billion of assets, for calendar years 2006, 2007 and 2008. (page 1, page 2.) The list doesn´t include 2009 numbers year-to-date, and for some of these banks that´s a good thing. I won´t name names, but I feel confident in saying that some of them won´t make next year´s top 100. Or maybe by then it´ll be the top 50.