The Office of Thrift Supervision has made it easier for credit unions to become federal mutual thrifts.

A final rule published in Wednesday's Federal Register eliminates a step in the application process for credit unions seeking thrift charters.

Before the rule took effect Wednesday, credit unions, which are mutually owned, were required to file two applications with the OTS before becoming a federal mutual thrift.

First, they had to apply for a federal mutual savings association charter. Then they were required to apply to merge the credit union into the new thrift. The new rule has eliminated this second step.

The agency had already permitted commercial banks and state-chartered mutual savings banks to convert to federal thrift charters in one step.

Credit unions requesting mutual thrift charters still must obtain permission from the National Credit Union Administration to abandon their credit union charters. They also must file an application with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for deposit insurance.

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