Stanley Bradshaw said he likes to think of himself as a banker rather than a thrift executive. And he has done so ever since he became chief executive of Roosevelt Financial Group Inc. five years ago.
Now he intends to have his $9 billion-asset thrift, of Chesterfield, Mo., become a bank by yearend, even if Congress doesn't eliminate the thrift charter.
Mr. Bradshaw said he's become increasingly impatient with Congress, which he says is foot-dragging on an important regulatory issue, and a market that he feels unfairly prices his company's stock.
"I think our activities are more similar to what you would find at a typical commercial bank," he said.
Mr. Bradshaw said he is giving Congress a month to eliminate the savings and loan charter and allow his thrift to convert unencumbered or he's going to buy a bank to hold deposits so Roosevelt can avoid paying into the Savings Association Insurance Fund.
"In the last six months, we have been approached by a number of commercial banks who said they would like to be part" of the Roosevelt family, Mr. Bradshaw said.
With a recent pronouncement by House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach that Congress will likely not take action on the insurance fund this year, Mr. Bradshaw said Roosevelt is accelerating its plan.
Roosevelt is not alone in its pursuit among Midwest thrifts. TCF Financial Corp. applied a year ago to federal bank regulators proposing the creation of four national banks where it has thrift charters in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
The $7.2 billion-asset Minneapolis thrift is still waiting for regulatory approval. TCF chief executive William Cooper said he is "cautiously optimistic" Congress will act on the issue. His thrift pays $10 million in insurance and he too, he said, has lost patience.
Last year, Roosevelt paid $11.7 million in insurance. If Roosevelt can shift deposits from its thrift to a newly formed bank, it could begin saving money on insurance premiums this year.
Analysts said establishing a commercial charter could make Roosevelt more competitive because it could attract depositors with higher-interest- paying savings and checking accounts. But whether Roosevelt's stock can trade like a bank's will depend on how well it diversifies. Most analysts say they believe Roosevelt still looks very much like a mortgage lender.
Roosevelt's charter change is "going to be more something of an appearance," said Chad Yonker, an analyst with Fox-Pitt Kelton. "They still are a lot like a thrift."
Mr. Yonker said Roosevelt wants its stock price to be valued like a bank, but "they're just now focusing on consumer loans. It's going to take a little time."
Roosevelt chief financial officer Gary Douglass complains that Roosevelt's stock doesn't trade at the same multiple as its Missouri bank rivals. Mr. Douglass said he believes Roosevelt is just as good a performer as St. Louis-based Boatmen's Bancshares or Commerce Bancshares of Kansas City.
"We think one of the reasons our multiple is low is because we are a thrift and they are banks," Mr. Douglass said. "We think there is a thrift taint, so to speak."
Joseph Stieven, an analyst with Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., said Roosevelt doesn't trade at the same price-to-earnings multiples as its bank counterparts because it doesn't have the same business mix.
Thrift stock does generally trade lower than bank stock, he said, but banks are more diversified and the market rewards them for earnings potential.
Mr. Bradshaw is well aware of what he has to do to impress analysts and convince the market Roosevelt is more bank-like. But, he said, transforming a business doesn't happen overnight.
Roosevelt offers checking accounts, consumer loans - including auto and home equity loans - and credit cards. It also has telephone banking. "These are products you wouldn't find at an S&L in 1965," Mr. Bradshaw said.