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Washington Mutual to Enter Chicago's Retail Banking Landscape; Move Will Complement Company's Leading Mortgage Lending Presence
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 few years.

"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 banking.

"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

CONTACT: Washington Mutual, Inc. Media Contact: Sheri Pollock, 206/377.2138 or Lisa Margolin-Feher, 858.350.1555 Investor Contact: JoAnn DeGrande, 206/461-3186