Free Business Checking to Roll Out Following Successful Pilot; Small Business "Champion" in Each Financial Center
SEATTLE, Mar 8, 2004 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Washington Mutual Inc. (NYSE:WM), one of the nation's leading
retailers of financial services, today announced that its banking
subsidiaries are significantly expanding their emphasis on small
business and are launching Free Business Checking as a signature
"During the past several years, we have successfully expanded our
retail banking network, and we are now broadening our support of other
areas of our business, including small business," stated Deanna
Oppenheimer, president of the Consumer Group at Washington Mutual.
"Our research indicates that small business customers want the
convenience of banking in one place for both their personal and
business needs. Furthermore, like our consumer customers, small
businesses don't want to be nickel-and-dimed for basic checking
services -- a fact that was underscored in a successful Free Business
Checking pilot held in Texas last year in which we saw
better-than-expected results in the number of new accounts opened."
Oppenheimer noted that Washington Mutual is the first of the
top 10 financial institutions nationwide to offer free checking with
no monthly service charge and no per-item fee to small business
customers. "There is a huge opportunity in the small business
marketplace and this business segment is largely underserved," she
added. "Free Checking is a core-relationship product for our consumer
customers and has been very well received since we introduced it
nearly 10 years ago. We are taking Free Checking to the next level and
offering Free Business Checking to small business customers as well."
Washington Mutual, in particular, is positioned to effectively
serve small businesses that don't routinely deposit or withdraw large
amounts of cash, such as professional, trade, service and light
manufacturing businesses with annual revenue of $5 million or less and
borrowing needs under $250,000, with the exception of real
estate-secured loans, said Oppenheimer. "We consider our 'sweet spot'
for small business customers to be the micro-business segment, with
annual revenues of $2 million or less," she stated. "These are
everyday business owners who would benefit from the great value and
friendly service we provide through Free Business Checking and our
Small Business "Champions"
"Washington Mutual's focus on small business is more than new
products and services, it's also about people and relationships," said
Doug Marshall, senior vice president of product development and
deposit strategy at Washington Mutual. "Our research confirms that
business owners want to have someone in their local branch who
understands their needs and who can serve as their main point of
contact. Instead of directing customers to an off-site specialist, we
have specially trained a small business officer for each of our
financial centers nationwide, and they will serve as small business
'champions.' In addition, we are introducing regional small business
officers to help reach out to customers in key markets."
Additionally, small business owners can access account information
through Washington Mutual's telephone banking and online channels.
Washington Mutual offers a broad line of small business credit
products, including credit cards, an overdraft line of credit, term
loans and lines, real estate-secured loans and leasing.
Washington Mutual to Sponsor StartupNation
To further enhance its small business focus, Washington Mutual has
teamed up with StartupNation(R), www.startupnation.com, a
Michigan-based multimedia company that provides small business
expertise to audiences through a nationally syndicated radio show,
online newsletter and business content. The company features the Sloan
brothers -- Jeff and Rich -- who are successful entrepreneurs and
small business experts that offer advice and coaching to new and
Washington Mutual will be a title sponsor of the weekly
StartupNation Radio show. Additionally, StartupNation will provide
valuable small business content for Washington Mutual's customers in
its financial centers and on www.wamu.com in the newly created Small
Business Resource Center. Regional promotional events in markets
across the country are being planned and will be announced at a later
"Ultimately, we want to see ourselves as providing long-term
banking needs for our business customers," said Oppenheimer. "With the
added value of the StartupNation relationship, we are providing
practical tools and resources that will help our customers succeed."
Washington Mutual Recognized for Its Innovation and
Retail Banking Strategy
Washington Mutual has been recognized for its innovation and
retail banking strategy, both nationally and internationally. Fortune
magazine announced that Washington Mutual was the No. 1 rated company
nationally in the innovation category as part of its 2004 Most Admired
Companies list, and the company was named the "Best Retail Bank --
Americas" in the Lafferty International Retail Banking Awards
announced last November.
About Washington Mutual
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 commercial clients. At December
31, 2003, Washington Mutual and its subsidiaries had assets of $275.18
billion. Washington Mutual currently operates more than 2,400 consumer
banking, mortgage lending, commercial banking, and financial services
offices throughout the nation. Washington Mutual's press releases are
available at www.wamu.com.
SOURCE: Washington Mutual Inc.
Washington Mutual Inc., Seattle
Mary Kelley, 206-377-6878
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