Searching for new ways to generate income, community banks are slowly embracing the higher-risk-but potentially higher-reward-business of consumer finance.

Last week, Mason-Dixon Bancshares of Westminster, Md., announced it was acquiring Rose Shanis Cos., a Baltimore firm that specializes in financing purchases for consumers with less-than-perfect credit. With the deal, $1 billion-asset Mason-Dixon joins a growing number of banks and bank holding companies that have acquired or launched consumer finance operations with the hope of boosting their bottom lines.

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