Nationwide Insurance Enterprise applied last week for a federal thrift charter.

The $81 billion-asset provider of life and property insurance said it would use the thrift to sell trust services to corporations for their retirement plans.

"Nationwide feels that there is an increasing demand for trustee services for retirement plans," according to the company's Nov. 25 filing with the Office of Thrift Supervision. "Forming a special purpose trust institution is a natural extension of Nationwide's existing business."

Nationwide now hires banks to perform trust services, the application said. Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide's core business is personal and commercial insurance, and it sells a broad range of long-term savings products.

Nationwide is the 13th-largest life insurance company in assets and has the sixth-highest level of property and casualty premiums, according to 1996 data compiled by the rating agency A.M. Best Co.

The proposed thrift would be called Nationwide Trust Co. FSB and would be owned by a holding company called Nationwide Financial Services Inc. The holding company would infuse the Columbus, Ohio-based thrift with an initial $3.5 million in cash, according to the application.

Five other insurers have applications pending with the OTS. The agency granted thrift charters to Travelers Group and Principal Financial Group in November.-Dean Anason

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