Sunshine Financial in Tallahassee, Fla., has asked for permission to switch to a state bank charter from a federal thrift charter.

The $154 million-asset company filed an application with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation for a commercial bank charter. If it is approved, the Florida agency would replace the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency as the primary regulator for Sunshine Financial's bank unit.

"While we have a very good relationship with the OCC, as a community-based bank committed to serving the banking needs of the Tallahassee metropolitan market area, [we] believe that having a primary regulator that is focused on the needs and challenges of a Florida bank is appropriate," Chief Executive Louis Davis said in a news release.

"We believe that a more local, regional primary regulator with a better understanding of the environment in which we operate will be conducive to enhanced responsiveness in [our] regulatory matters," Davis said.

The company expects the conversion to be completed in the fourth quarter. Sunshine Financial would change the name of its bank to Sunshine Community Bank from Sunshine Savings Bank, if the conversion is approved.

The activist investor Joseph Stilwell owns 9.8% of Sunshine Financial's shares through funds that he controls. Stilwell said in a July 2 regulatory filing that he plans to seek a board seat if Sunshine Financial does not complete a "meaningful number" of stock buybacks before the end of this year.

Sunshine Financial did not mention any plans for a stock buyback in documents filed in connection with its charter switch.

Sunshine Financial has undergone several conversions in its history. The company was established in 1952 as Sunshine State Credit Union to serve Florida state government employees. In 2007, it converted from a credit union to a mutual thrift. In 2009, it conducted a partial conversion with the formation of Sunshine Mutual Holding Company as its largest shareholder. In 2011, it completed a second-step conversion to a stock-owned thrift and abolished Sunshine MHC.

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