1990 was not a banner year for the nation's banking industry, but Salt Lake-based First Security Corp. bucked the trend with record and near-record performances in a variety of financial areas, all while expanding its marketing network by acquiring seven other companies.

In their letter to shareholders in First Security's 1990 annual report, Chairman Spencer F. Eccles and President Robert T. Heiner note that net income, at $45.71 million, was the second best in the company's 62-year history.Total assets at year's end were up 6.4 percent to $6.49 billion; total deposits were up 0.5 percent to $1.02 billion. Return on average assets was down 0.1 percent to 0.72 percent and return on average stockholders' equity was down 0.7 percent to 9.74 percent.

Net interest income rose 7.7 percent in 1990 to $259.70 million, mainly from a 12.5 percent expansion of average earning assets to a record $5.74 billion.

Earnings per common share of stock, fully diluted, were $3.04, the same as 1989. Dividends paid out for the year were $1.28, up four cents from the previous year. Book value of shares was up 5.5 percent to $33.33 while the market price (bid) closed the year down 23.6 percent at $24.25.

First Security's loan portfolio averaged $4.42 billion in 1990, up 9.6 percent over 1989. Basically commercial loans, they are "well diversified by size, number and industry," said Eccles and Heiner. "We don't have any loans outstanding to lesser-developed countries."

Because of the recession, the two executives said they elected to increase the company's loan loss reserves "as a prudent measure to hedge against the impact of the increased risk and uncertainties" such downturns create. The reserve was boosted 20.8 percent to a "strong" $80.37 million. That decision lessened the gains in operating income, which increased 11.2 percent to $348.93 million over 1989.

Eccles and Heiner - Heiner will retire at the end of this month - told shareholders the company's goal was to once again become a "high performance" investment, earning at least 1 percent return on assets and 15 percent return on equity.

Commenting on the state of the banking industry, they pointed out that the Comptroller of the Currency says the United States "maintains the most regimented, most segmented, most controlled financial system you will find among the industrialized countries."

This system, the two men agree, now impairs the ability of the nation's banks to compete on an equal basis with other financial institutions. Despite years of encouragement, the banking executives say Congress has not leveled the playing field for the U.S. financial industry "in its crucial time of need" in what has become a global marketplace.

"Let's hope it does before the problems worsen or the patient dies."