With the stock market surging, mutual thrifts are finding the inability to offer stock options an increasingly serious obstacle to hiring and keeping employees.

A hot stock can be used to steal mutuals' employees, said Charles J. Hamm, president of Independence Community Bank Corp., a $4 billion-asset mutual holding company in Brooklyn, N.Y. The movement of the market in the past two or three years "has exacerbated the problem," he said.

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