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Washington Mutual Takes Top Honors as 'Best Retail Bank -- Americas' by Lafferty Group in London

SEATTLE, Jan 9, 2004 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Washington Mutual (NYSE:WM) recently took top honors as "Best Retail Bank -- Americas" in the Lafferty International Retail Banking Awards. London-based Lafferty provides business intelligence and research to the banking industry worldwide and publishes Retail Banker International.

"Washington Mutual clearly stands out among all U.S. financial institutions in trailblazing an innovative brand of retail banking -- one that is warm and inviting and takes its cues from top-notch retailers," stated Michael Lafferty, chairman and chief executive officer of the Lafferty Group. "While most banks in recent years were pushing their customers out to ATMs (automated teller machines) and away from branches, this Seattle-based financial institution has successfully taken branch banking to the next level and suddenly other U.S. banks are rediscovering the value of branches."

Dubbed "Occasio," a Latin noun for "favorable opportunity," this new signature brand of retail banking represents a dramatic shift from traditional bank branches in look, feel and service. Instead, Washington Mutual has created a retail environment where people want to go, rather than have to go.

"Our signature brand of retail banking, which was nearly two years in development, was driven by extensive customer research and testing," said Deanna Oppenheimer, president of the Consumer Group at Washington Mutual. "The end result is an emotionally appealing retail environment that offers broad services and streamlined processes that make banking quick and easy."

Specifically, Washington Mutual's retail financial stores eliminate the high counters, button-down clerks, and impersonal service so often associated with the banking industry. Instead, a Khaki-clad concierge greets customers and escorts them to the appropriate service area. Gone are the teller windows, which instead are replaced with teller "towers" that automatically dispense cash -- and allow for easier transaction between the customers and service representatives. Touch screens are available for those who want to learn more about bank products independently, and Internet access to wamu.com is also available.

In many of the retail financial stores, a "WaMu Kids" section features a play area with an activity table, books, Gameboys and more. Customers can also browse at a retail store which stocks financial related items such as financial planning books and software and even piggy banks and WaMu branded Action Teller Dolls.

"Customer feedback indicates that Washington Mutual's signature brand of retail banking is succeeding," added Oppenheimer. "Customers have praised virtually every area and function of the branch design and customer service scores at these financial stores are among the highest in the company's branch network." Furthermore, since the signature brand of retail banking was rolled out nearly three years ago, Washington Mutual has successfully opened or remodeled approximately 620 financial stores 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.

About Washington Mutual

In addition to the Lafferty Group award, Washington Mutual's signature brand of retail banking has been recognized recently by U.S. Banker, which named it the "Top Retail Banking Team" in its recent All-Star Banking Team ranking announced in the publication's November 2003 issue. 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 naming Washington Mutual as the only bank for the Top Retail Banking Team category, U.S. Banker cited the success of the company's retail banking strategy. In addition, Washington Mutual was noted for creating a "buzz" across the United States with its successful expansion into new retail bank markets and as having "rivals back on their heels."

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 small businesses. At September 30, 2003, Washington Mutual and its subsidiaries had consolidated assets of $286.63 billion. Washington Mutual currently operates more than 2,700 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.

SOURCE: Washington Mutual

CONTACT: Washington Mutual
Mary Kelley, 206-377-6878