Now that the Office of Thrift Supervision has been eliminated, First Federal Savings and Loan Association in Charleston, S.C., does not see much reason to retain its federal charter.

The thrift's parent, First Financial Holdings Inc., said Wednesday that First Federal is switching to a state commercial bank charter because the Dodd-Frank Act had "removed many of the advantages of a federal savings and loan charter." As part of the landmark legislation the OTS was eliminated and merged into the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

The OCC has said that it would be aggressive in trying to retain federal thrifts, but it has acknowledged that it expects some switch to state charters. Meanwhile, state regulators have been aggressively lobbying federal thrifts now regulated by the OCC to switch charters, primarily touting their proximity to banks they regulate and their lower examination fees.

In a news release, the $3.2 billion-asset First Financial said it is also seeking a charter change to better reflect its shift from a traditional thrift to a more commercial-focused bank.

"We operate a full-service bank that provides a wide variety of products and services to consumers and businesses," said R. Wayne Hall, First Financial president and chief executive. "We believe that the change to a commercial bank charter will best align with our current operations and execution of our banking strategy."

The company expects to complete the switch from a stock savings and loan association to a South Carolina-chartered commercial bank in the first quarter of 2012. First Financial has already received approval from the South Carolina State Board of Financial Institutions and has filed an application with the Federal Reserve to become a bank holding company.

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