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|Washington Mutual Debuts Four Occasio Stores in Manhattan and Announces Plans for Eight More in the Metro Area; Company Also Reports Strong Growth In NY Checking Account Sales|
|NEW YORK, Jul 11, 2002 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Four of Washington Mutual's (NYSE:
WM) signature Occasio stores have opened for business in Manhattan, bringing the
company's nationally renowned retail banking experience to New York consumers.
In addition, the company announced sites for 8 new Occasio locations as part of its greater New York expansion plans. The company, which successfully converted the systems of the former Dime network in late May, is also reporting strong growth in new checking accounts sales.
The Occasio stores are the first of 40 stores set to open in the New York metropolitan area in the next year, which will augment Washington Mutual's existing regional network of 123 branches. "Occasio," a Latin noun for "favorable opportunity," represents a dramatic shift from traditional bank branches in look, feel and service and is unlike anything else the banking industry is offering. Rather than directing customers out to the ATMs, Occasio uses an open, welcoming environment and top-notch customer service to bring people into the financial center.
"Occasio is a fresh approach to personal financial services that we believe New Yorkers will find attractive," said Senior Vice President and Group Manager John Benevento, who oversees consumer banking operations in Manhattan, the Bronx, Westchester and Long Island. "We're raising the bar in retail banking by providing great value and friendly service to everyone, regardless of their account balance, in an inviting environment unlike anything New Yorkers have experienced."
The new Occasio stores are now open at 355 Lexington Avenue at 40th Street, 270 Broadway at Chambers Street, 498 Seventh Avenue at 37th Street, and 460 Park Avenue South at 31st Street. To date, Washington Mutual has signed leases for Occasio stores at 25 sites in the greater metro area, including eight new sites announced today:
- 28-56 Steinway Street, Astoria, Queens - Bell Boulevard at 39th Avenue, Bayside, Queens - 409 Commack Road, Deer Park, LI, NY - 3600 Long Beach Road, Oceanside, LI, NY - Franklin Plaza Shopping Center, Franklin Square, LI, NY - 1958-1962 Middle Country Road, Centereach, LI, NY - 33 Journal Square, Jersey City, NJ - Blue Star Shopping Center in Watchung, NJThe new Occasio stores are a key part of the company's New York expansion plans, which are underway after the successful systems conversion of the former Dime network over Memorial Day Weekend in late May. Just weeks following the systems conversion, new personal checking account openings at the bank's greater New York branch network were double what they were prior to the conversion.
"We know personal checking accounts are the key to establishing a customer's core banking relationship with us," said Benevento. "In addition, our market research clearly indicates that New Yorkers don't want to be 'nickel and dimed' by a bank, which is evident in the response we've had to our truly free checking," he said. "We listen to customers and structure our fees accordingly. We expect our retail banking strategy to do very well in New York, where we already hold the No. 2 position in the home mortgage market."
About OccasioOccasio 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. 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. There's even a store selling piggy banks and Washington Mutual Action Teller dolls.
To date, Washington Mutual has opened 21 Occasio financial stores in Las Vegas, 24 in Phoenix, and the first 33 of 60-80 in Atlanta. Additionally, the bank is currently retrofitting select financial centers in its existing network using the Occasio model. Altogether, WaMu has more than 230 Occasio de novo and retrofit stores throughout the country and expects to have more than 400 by year-end.
About Washington MutualWith a history dating back to 1889, Washington Mutual, Inc. 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 consolidated 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 news releases are available at www.wamu.com.
(NOTE: See banking like it has never been done before at www.wamunewsroom.com. Click Occasio Financial Stores under the media kits heading, and check the photos link)
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