Investors Bancorp (ISBC) will pay its first dividend, as the $11.5 billion-asset mutual thrift edges closer to a possible second-step conversion.

Shareholders of record as of Oct. 15 will receive a cash dividend of 5 cents per share. The dividend, announced on Friday, will be the first for the Short Hills, N.J.-based company since it went public in 2005. Investors will pay the dividend to public shareholders and its mutual holding company, which owns about 58% of its shares.

Investors is widely considered one of the mutual holding companies that's most likely to pursue a second-step conversion. Chief Executive Kevin Cummings has said that he wanted to pay a dividend before converting. Sandler O'Neill & Partners analyst Mark Fitzgibbon wrote in a research note Monday that he expects the company to announce soon that it will convert, now that it has formally planned a dividend.

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