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Washington Mutual Tops Fortune's Innovation List with New Retail Banking Store Concept, Bilingual Talking ATMs, CD eBay Auction; WaMu also Rated Top Mortgage Services Company

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Feb. 25, 2004--"Innovative bank." Sounds like a classic oxymoron -- but not according to FORTUNE magazine's annual survey.

This week, FORTUNE magazine announced that Washington Mutual (NYSE:WM) was the No. 1 rated company nationally in the innovation category as part of the publication's 2004 Most Admired Companies list, which is expected to hit newsstands March 1. The company also earned top ranking in its Mortgage Services industry group.

In terms of innovation, Washington Mutual bested such venerable organizations as Starbucks, Procter & Gamble, Herman Miller, UPS, and Nike. Nationally and internationally recognized for transforming retail banking, the company also recently received awards from the Lafferty Group, U. S. Banker and the Retail Industry Leader's Association.

"Washington Mutual has a long standing commitment to bringing innovative concepts with practical applications to market for the benefit of our consumers," said Kerry Killinger, the company's chairman, president and chief executive officer. "I'm proud that our recent innovations have not only proven to be successful, but that Washington Mutual has been recognized a leading innovator by our peers as acknowledged by FORTUNE."

Washington Mutual's breakthrough financial center stores, which the company began opening in April 2000, takes a page from some of America's top retailers. In the past four years, the company has opened more than 780 new and remodeled financial center stores throughout the U.S. The stores have been widely praised for introducing a welcoming environment to banking customers used to traditional high counters, button-down clerks, and impersonal service that are often associated with the banking industry. Instead, Washington Mutual offers Khaki-clad concierges who greet customers and escort them to the appropriate service areas. Barriers such as teller windows have been eliminated and allow for easier communication between the customers and service representatives.

Many of the stores also feature a retail section as well as a children's play area to keep kids occupied while their parents are banking.

A long-time leader in banking innovation, Washington Mutual was one of the first banks to offer free checking, which, coupled with its innovative financial centers and surcharge free ATMs, have helped the company become the seventh largest banking institution in the nation. Also, the company was the first in the country to offer sight-impaired consumers Talking ATMs that speak English and Spanish, and they recently teamed up with eBay to make available an unusual promotion: certificates of deposit via an online auction format.

Killinger said that being recognized as the top innovative company in the U.S., as well as the nation's most admired mortgage services company, is clear evidence that Washington Mutual's successful national strategy -- leading with mortgage operations in key markets and then introducing its innovative retail concept, is working well.

About Washington Mutual

Washington Mutual's financial center concept was recently recognized as one of the world's best retail "stores" by the Retail Industry Leader's Association. Washington Mutual was highlighted in a special report on the top 40 retail stores in the world, and was the only financial institution to be featured.

The company also was recently recognized by London's Lafferty Group as "Best Retail Bank -- Americas" for its signature brand of retail banking, noting that the company stands out among all U.S. financial institutions in "trailblazing an innovative brand of retail banking -- one that is warm and inviting and takes its cues from top-notch retailers."

The company also won U.S. Banker's "Top Retail Banking Team" award. U.S. Banker cited the success of the company's retail banking strategy, and noted that the company has created a "buzz" across the United States with its successful expansion into new retail bank markets, and has "rivals back on their heels."

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 Dec. 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, consumer finance and financial services offices throughout the nation. Washington Mutual's press releases are available at

    CONTACT: Washington Mutual
             Sheri Pollock, 206-377-2138

    SOURCE: Washington Mutual