GMAC Mortgage Corp.'s application last week for a thrift charter marks the first time since the thrift industry crisis that a conventional mortgage company has sought to form a federal savings bank.

The move could provide the Horsham, Pa.-based unit of General Motors with a number of benefits, observers say.

"There are lots of reasons to do this," said Ed Furash, president of Furash & Co., a Washington consulting firm. "Not the least of which is to make a tie between the mortgage bank and the capacity to use the Federal Home Loan Bank System."

GMAC Mortgage, which was the 12th-largest servicer in the country in 1997 and is a top 50 originator, plans to accept deposits and offer new products.

"We're hoping to become a stronger community member and expand into additional financial services," said Rick Gillespie, managing director, customer loyalty, at GMAC Mortgage. The company is planning to offer additional mortgage products through its 230 retail branches, he said.

The thrift would be headquartered in Wilmington, Del., Mr. Gillespie said.

It could offer products such as special rates on certificates of deposit to mortgage customers, said George Yacick, vice president of SMR Research, Hackettstown, N.J.

"They could hold these products out like carrots to help prevent refinancings," much as credit card issuers do, Mr. Yacick said.

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