Eastman Savings and Loan Association on Feb. 1 became the first thrift to obtain a federal credit union charter.

The institution, now ESL Federal Credit Union, embarked on its quest for a new charter in June 1994 when it was told by the New York State Department of Banking that it could not continue to operate without federal deposit insurance.

Coverage under the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund was millions of dollars cheaper than coverage by the thrift or bank funds.

The thrift had operated like a credit union throughout its 75-year history, serving only Eastman Kodak employees.

"This official change reflects the true nature of our business," said David L. Vigren, chief executive of the $1.2 billion-asset institution, the industry's 13th-largest.

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