Charles Rinehart, a mathematician by training, says he has no reservations about tinkering with the time-tested business formula at H.F. Ahmanson & Co.

The formula is elegantly simple: take deposits and make mortgages, preferably of the adjustable-rate variety. But Ahmanson, the nation's largest thrift company, is starting to venture into mutual funds and other new areas. And Mr. Rinehart, elevated to chief executive last month, says he is prepared to take more radical steps if that's what it takes to thrive in the 1990s.

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