Florida's Republic Security Bank is charting a new course in yacht lending.

The West Palm Beach-based company said this week that it is buying First New England Financial, one of the nation's leading yacht financing companies, and its renowned 1-800-BOAT-LOAN telephone number. Thrift officials hope the deal will make it an instant splash with First New England's Florida customers.

"This is the most exciting announcement in our company history," said Rudy Schupp, chairman and chief executive officer of $3.1 billion-asset Republic Security, in an investor conference call announcing the deal. "We are buying an impressive list of well-heeled customers."

In addition to the 20-year-old brand name and telephone number, the thrift is picking up about $100 million of yacht loans from John Deere Credit, which has owned First New England since 1996.

Beyond cross-selling, it is clear that the deal also creates an ocean of opportunities to make puns.

"We can now say that Republic Security's ship has come in, and that New England Financial is making waves," Mr. Schupp quipped during the conference call.

A Minneapolis accounting firm is offering community banks a chance to see how their Web sites stack up against competitors'.

McGladrey & Pullen LLP is sponsoring the Outstanding Midsize Company Web Site awards, which will recognize sites in various industries, including financial services.

A team drawn from the information technology and e-commerce fields will do the judging, the firm said. No cash prizes will be awarded, but the firm promises to publicize winners' names.

Companies with annual revenues of $5 million to $30 million are eligible. Appropriately, the only way to sign up is via a Web site, http://www.Web sites.mcgladrey.com.

Winners will be announced in September. - Louis Whiteman

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