TROUTDALE, Ore.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--May 18, 2001--Borrowing a page
from successful Pacific Northwest retailers such as Starbucks and
Nordstrom, Seattle-based Washington Mutual (NYSE:WM) has pioneered a
new retail banking concept aimed at revolutionizing the industry.
The first of the new branches nationwide has opened in Troutdale,
Oregon, at Washington Mutual's Wood Village Financial Center, located
at 22855 N.E. Park Lane, Suite A (inside the Fred Meyer store),
announced Ken Leander, Washington Mutual group manager for Oregon and
southwest and eastern Washington.
Dubbed "Occasio," a Latin noun for "favorable opportunity," this
new retail model 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 retail store (branch).
Washington Mutual launched its retail concept in Las Vegas last
April with the first of 21 Occasio stores. "The results have been so
promising and customer feedback so positive that the bank will open
the first of 40 Occasio stores in Phoenix starting this March, and
will now begin testing to see how its retail concept works in its
existing markets," said Leander.
The Wood Village financial center will be one of nearly 70 de novo
(new) Occasio branches, remodels or branch relocations the bank
expects to open nationwide in 2001 using the full Occasio retail
model. Additionally, 48 established Washington Mutual branches have
been selected to participate in a pilot program that retrofits key
Occasio components back into the branch.
The Occasio concept, which was nearly two years in development,
was driven by extensive customer research and testing. The end result
is an emotionally appealing retail environment that offers broad
services to maximize customer choice and streamlined processes that
make banking quick and easy.
Specifically, Occasio eliminates the high counters, buttoned-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. Customer service representatives
staff the floor, some carrying "e-teller" computer devices to assist
customers on the spot.
Teller "towers" that automatically dispense cash -- and allow
easier interaction between customers and service representatives --
replace teller windows. Touch screens are available for those who want
to learn more about bank products independently, and Internet access
to wamu.com is also available.
"We're creating a retail environment where people want to go,
rather than have to go," said Leander, who was quick to add that
Occasio goes beyond changing the physical appearance of the store.
"Occasio is not one `big thing,' but a myriad of enhancements that
are based on what customers told us they wanted," said Leander.
"Technology completely strengthens the human experience and adds value
to employee interaction. It's a holistic approach that takes banking
to the next level," he said.
Customer feedback indicates that Washington Mutual's retail model
is succeeding, as customers praise virtually every area and function
of the branch design. "Our survey results tell us these financial
stores are performing at the pinnacle of service excellence," said
Leander. "We're really looking forward to hearing what our customers
in Oregon think about it."
With 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 March 31, 2001, Washington Mutual and its
subsidiaries had assets of $219.93 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
||Washington Mutual, Inc.
||Mary Kelley, 206/377-6878