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Washington Mutual Bank: A Long History with the Community

Jul 18, 2008
Washington Mutual Bank, better known as WaMu, is one of the largest banks in the United States. Originally based in the Washington state area, WaMu has since expanded to be a national company that even has its stock actively traded on the American stock market. One of the aspects of this history that makes this bank especially interesting is the fact that they are constantly on the forefront of innovation.

There are many examples of Washington Mutual being one of the first banks to experiment with new ideas or practices that are commonplace today among banks and banking institutions in general. Some of theses examples include:

- The first home loan, given in 1890

- The first "shared" network of ATM machines, in the late 1970s.

- Designed a retail store design that was so unique that it was issued a U.S. patent to avoid copycats.

These are just three examples out of many more that show how it can pay to break out of the pack and think creatively. What makes the first example even more amazing, however, is that while they gave what might very well have been the first home loan in 1890, the bank was only founded in 1889.

Washington Mutual was started in Seattle shortly after a devastating fire nearly wiped out the city. During this time of rebuilding this bank become renowned for being extremely involved in the local community. This reputation helped the bank to grow and expand as the city of Seattle recovered, and they did well enough that eventually they continued to grow and go from a local bank to a regional, then national, bank chain.

WaMu's original name in 1889 was actually "The Washington National Building and Loan Association" and was developed specifically to set up a safe system where investors could lend money to neighbors who needed to rebuild after the Seattle fire. This system which helped to guarantee safe investing and efficient use of the money helped create a bank that would still be growing over a century later.

This bank made the first monthly-installment home loan, at least on the Pacific Coast, on February 10, 1890, to a Norwegian sailor who borrowed $700 in order to build a hose in Ballard, which was a specific Seattle neighborhood. This "creative" version of a home loan proved to be both wildly successful and poplar, gaining so much press that Seattle ended up being re-built on these loans, as Washington Mutual made more than 2,000 similar loans to help build 250 blocks of housing in Seattle.

In modern times, WaMu continues to strive to be a bank that is known for being a part of every community you can find a branch in. The first open annual shareholder meeting took place in 1984, and has remained an annual tradition since then. Washington Mutual is now a publicly owned bank that is larger than at any other time in its history thanks to continued growth.

No one can know what the future holds, but if the past is any indication, then the forward thinking that has helped Washington Mutual Bank grow in the past will keep them at the forefront of banking in the 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,
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