Ask bankers what unsettles them most and you'll get the same basic song and dance. Surprises, surprises, how they hate surprises. But what do they really want to know? We asked some experienced lenders what unnerves them:

Scott Blatterman, executive vice-president, Manufacturers Hanover Trust, New York City: "Don't tell us on December 15 that you'll earn $1 million, and then call in February to say, 'Actually, we lost $2 million.' That's when we say, 'How can this guy run a company?' "

Deryl K. Schuster, CEO, Business Banc of America, Wichita: "Say a guy underbids a contract. Something happens -- bad weather, a regulatory problem -- and now he's losing money. I want to hear about it early, because there's a chance we're going to have to help him through. What's he planning to do to get through this? What kind of support will he need from the bank? And how's he going to avoid problems like this in the future?"

Norman McClave, executive vice-president, First Fidelity Bancorp., Newark, N.J.: "Even when something happens that's good, like a big new order, we like to hear about it. It may or may not have an impact on borrowing. I don't like to find out about something affecting a customer in the morning paper. If the chairman of the bank mentions something, a banker wants to be able to say, 'Charlie called me about that yesterday, and here's how they're handling it.' "

Martha Hayes, vice-president, First Union National Bank, Charlotte, N.C.: "I like to hear about changes in the product line and in how the company is managed. If the VP of operations quits, we want to know who's filling in and what the plans are to replace the person. If you're adding a new product or a new plant, we want to hear. You may be financing it out-of-pocket today, but someday you may ask us for help." -- Bruce G. Posner and Susan Greco

* * *