WASHINGTON - National Bank of Commerce of Memphis intends to give up the national charter it has held since 1933 and convert to a Tennessee state charter.

National Bank of Commerce, a subsidiary of $7 billion-asset National Commerce Bancorp, filed conversion applications in mid-December with both the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions.

It is by far the largest national bank to apply for state-charter status this year.

Charles A. Neale, vice president and general counsel at National Commerce Bancorp, made clear that the company is not unhappy with its regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. However, he said, there are advantages to a state charter, including lower examination fees and easier access to regulators.

Though charter conversions are not unusual, they are relatively rare. Only 20 state banks have converted to national charters this year, and 22 national banks have switched to state charters, according to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

In Tennessee, National Bank of Commerce would be the first to switch charters in at least four years, said state banking commissioner Bill C. Houston.

National Commerce Bancorp is hoping to win approval for the conversion of the bank and its federal thrift subsidiary, National Bank of Commerce of Knoxville, by the end of the first quarter. The holding company's next step, Mr. Neale said, would be to merge the 92 branches operated in Tennessee by the bank and thrift under one state bank charter.

"We're doing this to simplify our lives," Mr. Neale said. He added that "it's certainly better for customers if they can do their business throughout the state with one bank."

National Commerce Bancorp operates 55 out-of-state branches under the name NBC Bank FSB. Those branches are to be consolidated under a separate Tennessee savings bank charter.

Because federal law prohibits state banks from using "federal" or "national" in their names, the conversion would mean a name change for National Bank of Commerce. Mr. Neale acknowledged that a change is imminent, but he would not disclose which names are being considered.

Rob Garver contributed to this story.

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