Grange Mutual Casualty Co. has applied for a federal thrift charter to provide banking products to policyholders and the general public in six states.

The Columbus, Ohio-based insurance company would initially capitalize its Grange Bank unit with $5 million, according to a July 31 filing with the Office of Thrift Supervision. The company-which wrote about $565 million in premiums in 1997-said it wants to complement its automobile, homeowner, life, and other insurance products.

"Our primary focus, at least early on, will be to augment the array of financial services products that can be offered to our existing policyholder base through our independent agent network," said Ron Wheeling, a former bank executive who is slated to be Grange Bank's president.

"We are going to start in Ohio and build out" over a two-year period into Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana, and Illinois, he said.

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