For buyers seeking to rope in leading positions in markets spread around Pennsylvania and Georgia, companies like Susquehanna Bancshares Inc. and United Community Banks Inc. might be worth a look.

The two are among the 20 institutions with deposits of $5 billion to $10 billion that have the highest concentration of top-three shares of deposits within their individual footprints (see charts).

To an extent, the smaller the institution, the more likely the size of the markets in which it operates is to determine its rankings.

Still, as with larger banking companies, a branch network's density — measured here as the proportion of an institution's markets where it holds large shares of deposits — can be an important perspective on its value.

Leading positions can imply advantages in local brand recognition, back-office costs and perhaps a measure of pricing power. (For an Excel spreadsheet showing density statistics for a full list of the roughly 7,000 independent banking companies in the country, click here. For institution density statistics in MSAs only, click here.)

Within the size category considered here, First Interstate BancSystem Inc. in Billings, Mont., tops the list in terms of the fraction of metropolitan statistical areas in which it operates where it holds a top-three share of deposits at 100%. (MSAs are geographic units defined by the federal government that encompass socially and economically integrated regions with urban cores of at least 50,000 people.)

Including counties that are not attached to MSAs, its fraction of top-three markets is more than 92%, according to branch deposit data at June 30, 2010, the date of the latest deposit survey by federal regulators.

But First Interstate's markets are relatively small. The Billings MSA, its largest, where it holds a first-place, 28.8% share, has a total of $3.6 billion in deposits.

Bank of Hawaii Corp. ranks second in all of its markets but one where it ranks third, but it faces relatively short lists of competitors in each. (All of the company's branches are in Hawaii or other Pacific islands. It is not listed in the table on MSA density since it operates in only one MSA (Honolulu) and the tables exclude institutions that have branches in fewer than three markets.)

United Community Banks in Blairsville, Ga., has top-three shares in the majority of its markets, though its leading positions are concentrated in rural counties with total deposits of less than $600 million in its home state and in North Carolina.

Susquehanna Bancshares ranks second in the Lancaster, Pa., MSA — which includes its headquarters in Lititz and encompasses about $9.4 billion of deposits — and 10 smaller markets.

The company is, however, still a little fish in key regions in its footprint. Its deal to acquire Abington Bancorp Inc. (which, like other deals announced or completed since June 30, is not reflected in the data) would make the Philadelphia MSA home to its largest branch presence by deposits but would still leave it with only 0.58% of market deposits.