Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Perhaps This Patent is the Next One to Fall? Washington Mutual, Inc. (NYSE:WM), one of the nation's leading retailers of financial services, today announced that the U.S. Patent Office has issued a patent for the company's retail banking approach and several more are pending. This is the first patent issued in the country to describe a full-service branch concept.

Specifically, U.S. patent No. 6,681,985 describes Washington Mutual's retail banking stores as places that "create a welcoming and inviting environment for a customer" and are "in sharp contrast to traditional bank branches." Instead, they have been "transformed into a more retail-like environment."

According to the patent's description, embodiments of the invention include the teller towers which remove the traditional barrier of a teller line and allow easier interaction between the customer service representative and the customer. Also described were the circular or oval layout of the retail banking stores, the concierge desk where customers are greeted and guided to the appropriate service area, and a kids' play area included in many of the company's stores. Further noted was the access to online banking through and bank employees who are hired for their high sales aptitude in order to cross-sell the company's financial products.

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