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New WaMu branches more like banks

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Renita Jablonski: Washington Mutual Bank, or WaMu, used to be the country’s biggest savings and loan, until it collapsed in September. It was the largest bank failure in American history. New owner JP Morgan Chase is erasing the last signs of a bank that was around for more than 120 years. Today in California, former WaMu branches are getting their makeover. Amanda Aronczyk reports.


Amanda Aronczyk Rebranding these former WaMu branches in California will cost $375 million.

Gary Kishner is a spokesperson for Chase. He says one reason it’s so expensive is because WaMu did its best to avoid looking like a bank:

Gary Kishner: It was very much like going into a coffee shop. The people that designed the branches were the same people that designed Starbucks. So it had that same type of retail feel.

Kishner says the new look will be more traditional.

Jean-Pierre Dube of the University of Chicago says Chase has little choice if it wants to absorb WaMu seamlessly:

Jean-Pierre Dube: Washington Mutual’s brand is kind of incompatible with almost any other banks’ brand, because it makes fun of them.

Dube says that poking fun at stodgy banking did resonate with younger customers.

Dube: Their strategy towards retail banking probably had little to do with their ultimate financial failure.

But Dube says Chase is banking on its conservative, reliable image — and hoping WaMu customers realize banking isn’t so much fun anymore.

I’m Amanda Aronczyk for Marketplace.

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