Saying it wants to focus on more traditional banking, Provident Bank in Baltimore announced it is selling its check-cashing subsidiary to a Pennsylvania payday lender and check casher for an undisclosed sum.

Provident, which has $5.2 billion of assets, said it will sell its eight Fast 'n Friendly check-cashing outlets to Dollar Financial Group Inc of Berwyn, Pa. The bank, a subsidiary of Provident Bankshares, opened its first check cashing store in Baltimore in 1994.

"This was a business decision based on our strategic plan," said John King, Provident's managing director for community banking. "Provident's focus remains on extending our branch network and increasing our presence in the growing commercial banking field."

The deal is the second announced by Provident this month. Last week it said it would buy $244 million-asset Harbor Federal Bancorp of Baltimore for $32 million.

Provident is the second-largest commercial bank headquartered in Maryland. It has offices there and in northern Virginia and southern Pennsylvania. Dollar is the second-largest operator of check-cashing stores in the United States and the largest in Canada and the United Kingdom.

The deal is expected to close in August, when the eight stores are to be renamed Money Marts.

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