Athens Federal Community Bank has applied for a national bank charter as it broadens its focus beyond residential mortgage lending.

The thrift, a subsidiary of Athens Bancshares Corp. in Tennessee, filed its application with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and plans to apply for permission to become a bank holding company with the Federal Reserve Board, according to a Feb. 13 press release.

The move will allow the bank, which operates seven offices throughout southeast Tennessee, to expand its range of services, Athens Bancshares President and CEO Jeffrey Cunningham said in the release.

"The proposed conversion to a national bank charter is an important step in the Bank's evolution from a traditional thrift institution focused primarily on residential mortgage lending to a full-service community financial institution," he said.

Once converted, the bank will continue to operate under the same name. It will also become part of the Federal Reserve System, but the OCC still will serve as its primary banking regulator.

Athens Bancshares will remain the converted bank's holding company, under Fed regulation. If the plan receives regulatory approval, the company expects the charter conversion to become effective during the second quarter.

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