Ford Motor Co. on Tuesday joined the host of nonbanks trying to start a federal thrift before Congress outlaws the charter.

Ford said it plans to use its thrift, which would be called ANFC Bank, to lend nationwide over the Internet. "Ford believes that the federal savings bank charter grants a broad range of powers to engage in consumer lending activities and provides greater operating flexibility than alternative means," according to its application to the Office of Thrift Supervision.

Ford pledged $10 million in capital to ANFC Bank, which would have no retail branches. If OTS approves the request, Ford would have a second spin through the thrift business. In September 1994, Ford sold First Nationwide Bank.

An indirect Ford subsidiary, Associates First Capital, has a separate application pending at OTS to convert its industrial loan company to a federal savings bank. (Ford plans to spin Associates off to shareholders next month.)

Separately, CNA Trust, a California-licensed retirement trust company aiming to go national, asked OTS for permission to become a federal savings bank.

"CNA Trust can best facilitate its nationwide growth and reduce operating costs by converting to a federal thrift charter," said chairman and president Renate Renfro.

The company, which focuses on company-sponsored and individual retirement plans, has more than 5,000 clients and assets totaling $1.5 billion. Mr. Renfro said it does not intend to enter the consumer lending business. CNA Trust's parent company is CNA, a $17 billion, Chicago-based insurer.

Interest in owning a thrift has soared since last summer when Congress started talking about eliminating the charter. Financial reform legislation pending in the House would grandfather existing unitary thrift holding companies. The latest version of the bill, however would protect only companies that applied for a thrift charter before Sept. 17.

To date, five nonbanks have received permission to launch thrifts, and 23 have applications pending.

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