that it has filed with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for a limited-purpose thrift charter and struck a referral agreement with Northern Trust Co.

Northwestern, headquartered here, plans to use the charter to form a trust company that will offer irrevocable life insurance trusts, trusts utilized in estate planning, and investment management services for trust administration, said spokesman Thomas W. Towers.

"The larger and more complex trusts will be referred to Northern Trust since that's what they do so well," he said.

Northwestern is the largest provider of individual life insurance in the U.S., with $80 billion in assets. Its trust and estate business has been growing at a double-digit rate for almost 15 years. Under the cross-referral agreement, some customers of $30.2 billion-asset Northern Trust will be referred to Northwestern for life insurance, Mr. Towers said.

Northwestern's thrift application announcement came just hours after a House-Senate conference committee voted to recommend that commercial companies be barred from forming unitary thrifts. As a financial services company, Northwestern would not be affected.

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