First Security Federal Savings Bank, a thrift catering to recent Eastern European immigrants, is planning to convert from a mutual institution to a stock company this fall.

The $260 million-asset savings bank, which operates two Chicago-area branches as well as a thrift in Philadelphia, planned the conversion to protect its federal status in the midst of the congressional debate over the federal thrift charter's future.

Officials weren't certain they could remain mutual under a new federal charter, but also "we cannot revert to a state charter because of our commitment in Pennsylvania," said Julian E. Kulas, president and chief executive officer at First Security Federal.

The stock conversion would also give First Security Federal enough capital to expand its operations. Mr. Kulas said there may be opportunities in Eastern European neighborhoods in Chicago and other cities.

"We cater to new immigrants, and there have been more arriving in the last few years since the breakup of the Soviet Union," he said.

First Security Federal would also use the new capital to update its technology. The stock conversion is to be completed in October, pending regulatory and depositor approval.

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