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Washington Mutual Bank: Growing Through Good Times and Bad

Jul 18, 2008
Washington Mutual (Wamu) Bank is a business that goes by the old adage, "If you're not growing, you're dying." Wamu has a very long history coming into modern times of mergers, buy outs, and the type of expansion that have kept them a growing and thriving business through both good and bad economic times. Any bank that is capable of this type of consistent growth usually shows a history of good decisions and the type of solid foundation that indicates an admirable business model.

The history of this institution reflects this. In 1911, when the predecessor to the bank was barely over a decade old, they recruited Eugene Favre, co-founder of Murphey Favre Inc, and investment firm that was based out of Spokane, Washington. At this point the business was known at that time in the early century as Washington Savings and Loan Association.

It's easy to keep expanding during good times (not always for the best) but the continued expansion during rougher times is what kept the bank strong. During World War I they managed to continue to expand assets by a mind boggling 68%, setting them up with a solid foundation that would help them to ride out the severe recessions that would later follow and cripple much of the country.

This accomplishment didn't go unnoticed. After the war years Washington Mutual had a hard earned reputation as one of the strongest and most fundamentally sound savings and investment institutions in all of Washington state.

In 1923, this bank started its now renowned "Saving Their Pennies" program. This program was aimed at schools to help teach children the value in saving money. During that first drive, almost 17,000 school children made deposits. This tradition has since helped tens of thousands of kids to learn how saving money is more important than spending it, a message that you wish more institutions would teach.

Washington Mutual's first true acquisition came at a time when most banks where facing the pressures of the Great Depression. On July 25, 1930, at the request of Continental Mutual Savings Bank, Wamu Bank purchased their bank to protect their customers and help steer the new combined bank through the very difficult times that were already upon them, and the worse ones yet to come.

Wamu continued to be a pioneer, installing its first computer in 1962 as the technology was just burgeoning, and also creating innovative payment systems for inner city housing to help slow and fight the on going decay of inner city infrastructure.

They went from a private institution to a public one in 1983. Within six years the bank more than doubled in size, proving that even during an entire decade marred by recession, they knew how to not only survive, but to thrive in adverse conditions. There were many mergers in recent years, as well, including with Great Western Financial Corporation, H.F. Ahmanson & Co., Dime Bancorp, Inc., and also a take over of Providian Bank.

Washington Mutual is now one of the largest banks in the United States, and their history indicates that if they continue with their innovative tactics and home based banking, that this company will continue to have a bright future
About the Author
Thomas Boston, Principal of 825credit.com is a personal finance expert and consumer credit advocate who specializes in responsible credit management and creation. He can be reached online with comments, questions and other inquiries at tboston[at]825credit.com
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