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|Washington Mutual to Launch Retail Banking Concept in Denver; 'Occasio' Unlike Anything Metro Area Has Ever Seen|
SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--April 17, 2002--Washington Mutual, Inc. (NYSE:WM) has announced plans to introduce its award-winning "Occasio" retail brand of banking to the greater Denver area this year with the first 20 of 30 "Occasio" financial stores planned for the area.
Washington Mutual currently has five home loan offices in the state.
"Occasio," a Latin noun for "favorable opportunity," represents a dramatic shift from traditional bank branches in look, feel and service. Rather than directing customers out to the ATMs, Occasio takes its cues from cutting edge retailers, using an open, welcoming environment and top-notch customer service to draw people into the financial center. The complete package is unlike anything else the banking industry is offering.
"We're setting a new standard in retail banking by combining WaMu's proven sales and service culture with a contemporary retail look and feel," said Karen Curtin, SVP and manager of Planning & Franchise Development. "By uniting our customer friendly service with innovative technology and design elements, we're able to provide something banks have never consistently delivered: an inviting customer experience."
The Occasio Difference
Occasio financial centers actually look and feel like contemporary retail stores, which is apparent as soon as you walk through the doors. Unlike traditional branches, Occasio stores feature casually dressed, khaki-clad "concierges" who greet people and escort them to the appropriate service area.
The circular design removes the traditional bank barriers, including teller windows, between customers and employees. Instead, Washington Mutual representatives greet customers at one of several "teller towers." Employees never have to count or touch money, which makes the station a lot more efficient than a teller window, and frees up the representative's time to serve the customer.
Small tables and comfortable chairs are located to the side of the teller towers, and are available for customers who want an in-depth and private conversation about a certain product, home loan or credit card. Touch screens give customers the option of independently researching services. A demonstration model for wamu.com, Washington Mutual's online banking option, is also available.
"Occasio isn't just about changing the physical appearance of our stores," said Curtin. "It's a holistic approach that incorporates a myriad of enhancements that are based on what customers told us they wanted. Our survey results tell us these financial centers are performing at the pinnacle of service excellence."
Washington Mutual will enter Denver with an entire package of customer-driven products and services, including free checking and online banking; surcharge free ATMs; responsive, individual customer service; unlimited free access to tellers and customer service representatives; and a host of banking options and choices that let the customer decide how, when and where they want to do business.
Washington Mutual will also play an active part in the Denver community through homeownership and education initiatives. The openings are expected to create 240 new jobs within the next several years.
To date Washington Mutual has more than 200 Occasio de novo and retrofit stores throughout the country, including 21 Occasio financial stores in Las Vegas, 21 in Phoenix, and the first 31 of 60-80 in Atlanta. Additionally, the bank is currently retrofitting select financial centers in its existing network using the Occasio model.
Occasio is the latest extension of Washington Mutual's sales and service culture. The bank began developing Occasio in the mid-late 1990s, basing it on nearly two years of extensive customer research and testing. "While other banks were debating clicks versus bricks, our findings showed that customers preferred our high-touch customer service over anything else," said Curtin. "The time was perfect to introduce a new concept that used technology to enhance the customer experience, not replace it."
About Washington Mutual
With a history dating back to 1889, Washington Mutual is a national financial services company that provides a diversified line of products and services to consumers and small- to mid-sized businesses. At March 31, 2002, Washington Mutual and its subsidiaries had assets of $275.22 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.