SEATTLE, Oct 16, 2002 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Washington Mutual, Inc. (NYSE:WM)
today announced plans to introduce its "Occasio" brand of retail banking to the
greater Chicago area by opening up to 70 of the company's new, award-winning
financial stores by year-end 2003, for a total of 120-150 offices in the next
"Our research clearly shows Chicago consumers are ready for Washington Mutual's
unique brand of banking, which combines a good deal with friendly, efficient
service," said Michael Amato, Washington Mutual EVP and manager of Consumer
Branch Banking. "We are excited to be bringing this concept to one of America's
truly great cities."
Amato noted that the company's research recently found that Chicago-area banks
are generally not meeting the needs of their consumers. Respondents particularly
voiced their frustration about unreasonable fees charged by banks. Additionally,
researchers discovered that local consumers are less loyal to their current
banks and express a greater desire to switch banks than people in other cities.
"Over the years, consumers have made it clear that they do not want to be
'nickel and dimed' by their bank," said Amato. "We've listened and have
structured our fees accordingly," he said.
Washington Mutual's consumer friendly approach to banking includes free checking
that's truly free; surcharge free ATMs, and unlimited free access to tellers and
customer service representatives no matter what type of account. "We believe
these services will go over very well and will prove to be a great complement to
our mortgage product line, which we've offered in Chicago for several years
now," Amato said.
No Stranger to Chicago
Washington Mutual is no stranger to the Chicago area. Already Illinois' No. 1
home lender, the company employs approximately 2,000 people locally, primarily
in loan servicing and support centers in Vernon Hills, Downers Grove and
Schaumburg, Ill. The company also operates more than 20 business offices in
greater Chicago, including home loan centers and consumer finance offices.
WaMu, which is known nationally for its quirky, consumer-oriented advertising
and marketing, recently introduced a "life size" cave dwelling at Two North
Riverside Plaza, with the message "we've been getting people into their dream
homes for years."
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
open, welcoming environment and top-notch customer service to draw people into
the financial center. The complete package is unlike anything else available in
"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 Karen E. Curtin, Washington
Mutual SVP and manager of Planning & Franchise Development.
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 nearly 300 Occasio stores throughout
the country in two-plus years, including 21 in Las Vegas, 26 in Phoenix and 43
in Atlanta. By year end the company expects to open an additional 20 in Denver
and another 32 in greater New York/New Jersey. The company currently operates
1,500 consumer bank branches nationwide.
Chicago Native to Manage Consumer Banking Network
Tony Manisco was recently named senior vice president and manager of Washington
Mutual's consumer banking activities in Illinois. Currently, Manisco is SVP and
manager of the Washington Mutual's North Texas consumer banking network. Prior
to his move to Texas in 1992, Manisco worked eight years in Chicago, where he
was responsible for Citicorp's retail bank branches throughout the area. He is a
graduate of DePaul University.
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 Curtin. "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.
CONTACT: Washington Mutual, Inc.
Sheri Pollock, 206/377.2138
Lisa Margolin-Feher, 858.350.1555
JoAnn DeGrande, 206/461-3186