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Washington Mutual's Branch Concept Recognized as One of the World's Best Retail 'Stores' by the Retail Industry Leaders Association

WaMu highlighted in special report on top 40 retail "stores," only financial institution to be mentioned

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan. 28, 2004-- Washington Mutual's branch concept was recently recognized by the Retail Industry Leaders Association as being one of the Top 40 best retail "stores" in the world, and was the only financial institution to make the ranking. The association is publishing a special report that is expected to be released next month and which will highlight case studies including one on Washington Mutual.

"Washington Mutual has transformed the banking experience with its signature brand of retail banking," said Sandra Kennedy, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (formerly named the International Mass Retail Association). "Taking cues from top-notch retailers, Washington Mutual has created a retail environment that is warm and inviting, and offers a high level of customer service. As a result, its retail financial centers are places where people want to go, rather than have to go."

Deanna Oppenheimer, president of the consumer group at Washington Mutual, added, "This recognition from our peers in the retail industry confirms what we've long recognized and what our customer research has indicated. Customers like doing business in a comfortable setting with friendly, competent people, and we designed our retail financial centers accordingly. While other banks in recent years were directing customers out to their ATMs and out of the branch, we were pioneering a new way to bring retail banking to the next level."

Dubbed internally as "Occasio," which is Latin for "favorable opportunity," the signature brand of retail banking was first introduced by Washington Mutual in April of 2000. Since then, the Seattle-based financial institution has successfully opened or remodeled approximately 780 financial centers throughout the United States, including the company's newest retail banking markets in Chicago, New York, Las Vegas, Denver, Atlanta and Phoenix, with Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla. starting in 2004.

Kennedy noted that customer feedback indicates that Washington Mutual's strategy is working, and customers have praised virtually every area and function of the branch design - from the concierge who greets customers to the teller "towers" which eliminate the higher counters and teller windows of traditional branches. In addition, Internet access to wamu.com is available for those who want to learn more about bank products independently. In many of the retail financial centers, a "WaMu Kids" section features a play area with an activity table, books, Gameboys and more.

"Washington Mutual has taken an industry that was once considered staid and has successfully infused it with a customer-centric retail environment. It has become the model for other financial institutions, as well as other retailers," added Kennedy.

About the Retail Industry Leaders Association

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (formerly named the International Mass Retail Association) is the world's leading alliance of the fastest growing and most innovative retailers and their products and service suppliers. Members represent more than $1 trillion in sales annually and operate more than 100,000 stores, manufacturing facilities and distribution centers. Its member retailers and suppliers have facilities in all 50 states, as well as internationally, and employ millions worldwide.

About Washington Mutual

Washington Mutual takes a "un-bank-like" approach to financial services and is recognized both nationally and internationally for its signature brand of retail banking. Washington Mutual was named recently by U.S. Banker as the "Top Retail Banking Team" in its All-Star Banking Team ranking announced in November 2003. The company also earned top marks in two other 'all-star' rankings - which meant it swept more categories than any other financial institution in the United States.

In addition, Washington Mutual was recognized as "Best Retail Bank -- Americas" in the Lafferty International Retail Banking Awards announced recently. The company was noted for clearly standing out among all U.S. financial institutions in trailblazing an innovative brand of retail banking.

With a history dating back to 1889, Washington Mutual is a retailer of financial services that provides a diversified line of products and services to consumers and commercial clients. At Dec. 31, 2003, Washington Mutual and its subsidiaries had assets of $275.18 billion. Washington Mutual currently operates more than 2,400 consumer banking, mortgage lending, commercial banking, consumer finance and financial services offices throughout the nation. Washington Mutual's press releases are available at www.wamu.com.

CONTACT: Washington Mutual
Mary Kelley, 206-377-6878
Mobile: 206-459-0394

SOURCE: Washington Mutual