APPLETON, Wis.-NCUA has approved a credit union charter for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, a $540 million bank that used to be a credit union that will now once again be a credit union known as Thrivent FCU.

Thrivent Financial was formed in 2001 by the combination of three credit unions, a trust bank and a community bank, all serving the Aid Association for Lutherans. The new credit union will serve almost 47,000 members and continue to be headed by the current CEO of Thrivent Financial Todd Sipe.

Despite its credit union heritage, Thrivent is the first bank to convert to a credit union since Rochester, N.Y.-based Eastman (Kodak) S&L, now a $4-billion credit union known as ESL FCU, in 1996.

The deal is one of several involving charter switching among banks and credit unions, with three credit unions agreeing over the past 18 months to buy banks and one credit union poised to be acquired by a bank.

Thrivent expects the charter change to save it up to $2 million annually, about 10% of the bank's budget, on income tax and regulatory expenses.

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