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|Washington Mutual Enters Denver's Retail Banking Landscape; Move Will Complement Company's Mortgage Lending Presence|
DENVER--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dec. 3, 2002--Washington Mutual, the nation's leading growth retailer of consumer financial services, has introduced its award-winning brand of retail banking in Denver. The company opened its first 20 of 30 "Occasio" banking centers this week in the Denver area, where it plans to build upon and leverage its leading home lending operations.
"Our experience shows Denver consumers appreciate Washington Mutual's brand of doing business, which combines a good deal with friendly, efficient service," said Brad Weber, regional manager for Washington Mutual's retail bank network in Colorado. "Our research shows they're ready for our retail products and services as well."
Weber noted the company's research found that banks in Denver could do a better job in meeting expectations of local customers in many areas. Respondents particularly voice their frustration about fee-related issues. "Over the years, consumers have made it clear they do not want to be 'nickel and dimed by a bank,'" said Weber. "We've listened and have structured our fees accordingly."
Washington Mutual brings Denver customers its 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.
No Stranger to Denver
Although Washington Mutual is providing retail banking to Denver for the first time, the company is no stranger to Colorado. Washington Mutual is the #2 home lender in the state and currently employs approximately 300 people locally in its home lending operations, primarily in its loan fulfillment center in Englewood, and seven home lending offices throughout the state, which include five home lending centers. The company also offers multi-family and commercial real estate lending through an office in Denver and home builder finance through an office in Englewood.
With the entry of its retail operations, Washington Mutual will play a more active role in the Denver community through homeownership and education initiatives. Since announcing its retail entry into the state, the bank has added nearly 200 jobs to the area, bringing its total employee count to approximately 500.
The Occasio Difference
"Occasio," a Latin noun for "favorable opportunity," represents a dramatic shift from traditional bank branches in look, feel and service. Rather than directing customers to 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 available in banking.
"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," said Weber.
Occasio financial stores look and feel like contemporary retail stores. Unlike traditional branches, Occasio stores feature casually dressed, khaki-clad "concierges" who greet people and escort them to the appropriate service area.
Washington Mutual has opened or remodeled more than 300 Occasio stores throughout the country in two-plus years, including 21 in Las Vegas, 28 in Phoenix, 50 in Atlanta and 12 in greater New York/New Jersey. Next year Washington Mutual plans to open more than 230 new Occasio stores. The company currently operates nearly 1,500 retail financial centers nationwide.
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 brand of customer service over anything else," said Weber. "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 September 30, 2002, Washington Mutual and its subsidiaries had assets of $261.10 billion. Washington Mutual currently operates more than 2,500 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.