Seeking to offer trust services nationwide, American Express Co. on Friday applied for a federal thrift charter.

American Express Personal Trust Services FSB would be 100% owned by American Express Co., which also asked the Office of Thrift Supervision for permission to become a unitary thrift holding company. An American Express official said the firm's 8,000 financial advisers would offer the thrift's trust services nationwide. The company expects the thrift will open in early 1999.

"As an comprehensive provider of financial services and advice, it is the goal of American Express ... to expand, improve, and integrate the manner in which financial advice, products and service are provided to consumers," the company said in its application, parts of which the OTS made public.

The OTS is considering applications by 25 nonbanks to create thrifts, including six from financial services companies. It has approved 11 similar applications since 1997 when Congress began debating the future of the thrift charter.

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