More than 300 Northwest branches of Washington Mutual Bank, including 19 in the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene market, officially will become Chase bank branches in June, and soon will be led by a longtime regional banker with roots in Spokane.
Employees at WaMu's 19 branches in Spokane and North Idaho will begin wearing Chase uniforms as of March 31, and branch signage and systems will be changed during May, says WaMu spokeswoman Darcy Donohoe-Wilmot. Last September, New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co. acquired many of the assets of WaMu, a Seattle-based thrift that had become a national powerhouse before failing amid the financial-industry crisis. Chase is JPMorgan Chase's commercial and consumer banking brand, while JPMorgan is its investment and private banking brand.
Functionally, WaMu's customers won't experience disruptions even as its employees make the switch, says Donohoe-Wilmot. Customers will keep the same account numbers, have access to the same services, and can continue to use their WaMu checks.
Meanwhile, the big financial services company recently named former Spokane banker Phyllis Campbell as its chairman for the Pacific Northwest market. Campbell takes the helm of JPMorgan Chase's regional operations April 1, and will oversee Washington, Idaho, and Oregon, for the bank, as well as serve on its executive committee.
WaMu operates 12 branches in Spokane and another seven in the greater Spokane-Coeur d'Alene market. Five of the bank's branches in this market are located within retail stores, which will be a first for the JPMorgan Chase network, says Donohoe-Wilmot.
Also, WaMu has focused primarily on the consumer market, though its branches here do include business bankers. Chase, however, will focus more on business banking, but how that will look here isn't clear yet, she says.
Overall, since JPMorgan Chase previously had no branch presence in Washington, it won't be closing any branches here and will retain all of WaMu's Inland Northwest employees, Donohoe-Wilmot says. She says JPMorgan Chase wanted to acquire an established network of branches to set its retail branching footprint here, rather than build its own network from the ground up. That's the pattern it has followed elsewhere also, she says.
Later, JPMorgan Chase plans to give its new Northwest branches a makeover to complete their transformation to the Chase brand, but Donohoe-Wilmot says it hasn't been determined yet when that will happen or who will do that work.
Campbell, who has been heading up the nonprofit Seattle Foundation for the past six years, following her retirement as CEO of U.S. Bank of Washington, says that she is excited to return to bankingnot in spite of the current shakeup in the U.S. banking industry, but in large part because of it.
"I felt it really was a great time to get back into banking because it's so critical to our communities, and what a great time to help shape banking and reenergize communities and the economy, especially with a major bank like JPMorgan Chase," Campbell says.
She says she believes that having the presence of a global bank with operations in 60 countries will be a benefit to Spokane-area companies such as Telect Inc. and Avista Corp. She says she believes that Spokane is on the verge of being a major player in the global economy, and that JPMorgan Chase's presence here can benefit Spokane companies that step onto that playing field.
"It's an organization that has a real depth and breadth of services," Campbell says. "To have a whole array of financial services in the arena can only really help the economy."
JPMorgan Chase's West Coast investment banking services likely will remain based in San Francisco, with JPMorgan professionals there ready to hop a flight to Spokane whenever necessary, she says.
Because there really was no branch network to undergird JPMorgan's operations in the Northwest, the more wholesale side, such as investment banking, has branched off in places like San Francisco, though JPMorgan does have some private wealth-services professionals working out of Seattle, Campbell says.
JPMorgan Chase as an organization fits in well with her own civic-mindedness, says Campbell, who has served on numerous community boards and organizations in both Spokane and Seattle.
"It's an organization with deep roots and great values and deep ethos of making sure there's a strong connection to customers and communities in which it does business, that really attracted me as far as luring me back to banking," she says.
The bank has committed to making $2.65 million in charitable and corporate contributions to nonprofits in Washington this year, matching WaMu's 2008 contributions, she says.
In her role at JPMorgan Chase, Campbell expects to visit Spokane frequently.
"I will be more visible in Spokane, and the team will be more visible," and will work to ascertain the community's needs, Campbell says. She already has had some inquiries about how many commercial bankers Chase will have in the Inland Northwest, though she says it's just too soon to make that call.
Though Campbell spent her entire career previously with one company, she says she is familiar with WaMu as an industry professional and personally. A student loan Campbell received from WaMu in Spokane helped pay for her education at Washington State University. Upon her graduation, she was hired as a management trainee in Spokane, in 1973, at what then was Old National Bank, which underwent several acquisitions and changes up until her departure in 2001 as president and CEO of the same organization, which now is known as U.S. Bank.
Both Campbell and Donohoe-Wilmot say it's too early for JPMorgan Chase to make any projections about performance of its branch network here this year, and say the transition is the focus for now.
"The conversion is something that needs to be handled very well, and growth and market-share numbers will come later," Donohoe-Wilmot says.
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