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|Washington Mutual Announces Plans for Retail Banking Concept in Greater New York; ``Occasio'' Unlike Anything Metro Area Has Ever Seen|
|NEW YORK, Mar 14, 2002 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Washington Mutual Inc. (NYSE:WM)
today announced plans to add up to 40 new sites within the next year in the
greater New York/New Jersey area -- including 11 sites in Manhattan -- to
introduce its award-winning "Occasio" retail brand of banking.
To date, Washington Mutual has signed leases for 13th Street and Broadway, 700 Avenue of the Americas, 31st Street and Park Ave., 37th Street and Seventh Avenue, 40th Street and Lexington Avenue, Broadway and Chambers Street, 75th Street and Broadway, 45th Street and Lexington Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard (nee125th Street) -- all in Manhattan.
"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."
Washington Mutual entered the New York/New Jersey retail banking market through its acquisition of Dime Bancorp. The transaction closed Jan. 7, creating a platform for Washington Mutual's growth in the nation's largest urban banking market. With the addition of the mortgage operations of Dime's North American Mortgage Company, Washington Mutual has also further strengthened its position as the nation's leading mortgage franchise.
The Occasio DifferenceOccasio 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. There's even a store selling personal financial books, kids' items centered on saving money and Washington Mutual Action Teller dolls.
"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."
To date the bank has opened 21 Occasio financial stores in Las Vegas, 21 in Phoenix, and the first 21 of 60-80 in Atlanta. Additionally, the bank is currently retrofitting select financial centers in its existing network using the Occasio model. In New York, the Walt Whitman branch in the Huntington Square Mall in East Northport, LI, NY and the branch at 48th Street and Fifth Avenue are the first two financial centers slated for an Occasio remodel. To date, Washington Mutual has more than 185 Occasio de novo and retrofit stores throughout the country.
HistoryOccasio 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 MutualWith a history dating back to 1889, Washington Mutual, Inc. (NYSE:WM) is a national financial services company that provides a diversified line of products and services to consumers and small- to mid-sized businesses. At Dec. 31, 2001 Washington Mutual and its subsidiaries had consolidated assets of $242.51 billion. Washington Mutual currently operates more than 2,300 consumer banking, mortgage lending, commercial banking, consumer finance and financial services offices throughout the nation. Washington Mutual's news releases are available at www.wamu.com.
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