The Office of Thrift Supervision granted a federal thrift charter Monday to Guard Insurance Group Inc., which sells workers' compensation insurance to small and midsize businesses in the Mid-Atlantic and New England states.

Guard Security Bank plans to originate home equity loans marketed to policyholders as well as independent insurance agents and brokers.

The thrift will also make education and small-business loans to customers near its one public office at Guard's corporate headquarters in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Auto loans and leases will be offered through dealers in the area.

The OTS said at least 40% of Guard Security's board of directors may not be officers or employees of its $164.7 million-asset holding company or its affiliates.

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