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Old March 12th, 2006, 07:29 AM   #1
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Seattle's Newest Skyscraper - WaMu Center

Less office, more space for WaMu
Workers will soon begin moving into Seattle's newest skyscraper, the WaMu Center, with its open floor plan, homey features such as comfortable eating areas and absence of all but a few hard-walled offices.
Melissa Allison
10 March 2006
The Seattle Times

In two weeks, Washington Mutual workers will start moving into Seattle's newest skyscraper, and for some that will mean the loss of a hard-won corner office.

Only 19 of the 5,000 people who eventually will move into WaMu Center will have hard-walled offices. The rest -- including most of the bosses -- will work in cubicles, some of them enlarged for managers, with high walls and sliding glass doors.

The idea was to save money on floor space while creating a brighter, more open environment to encourage communication.

Vertical campuses are not a new concept in Corporate America, which learned long ago that putting people in cubicles saves money. But WaMu has added touches -- such as large, comfortable eating areas and a 17th-floor outdoor garden overlooking Elliott Bay -- that will make its new 42-story headquarters at Second Avenue and Union Street a friendlier place to work.

"This is more reflective of our culture. Having people sit in private offices with big oak desks is not who we are," said Kent Wiegel, WaMu's senior vice president of corporate real estate.

WaMu Center cost $300 million to build, but the company figures it will save $15 million a year, mostly in leasing costs, by moving thousands of employees there from the dozen buildings in which they're scattered. After the move, WaMu will occupy office space in five downtown buildings.

A portion of WaMu Center's first 12 floors belongs to the Seattle Art Museum, but WaMu will lease most of that space from the museum for at least a decade. SAM's new and expanded facility is scheduled to open in spring 2007.

The structure is months from completion, but WaMu hopes to begin moving in March 24, with 200 to 300 employees making the move each weekend.

They'll occupy the building from the ground up, with people working on the first floors for nearly a year before the last box is unpacked at the top of the tower.

Chief Executive Kerry Killinger, one of the 19 executives who will have a traditional office, expects to move in around Labor Day. His office will be on the 31st, 32nd or 33rd floor -- WaMu officials don't know yet -- but he will not be at the penthouse level, where community lending is slated to go.

That shouldn't be a huge adjustment for Killinger, who sits on the 16th of 55 floors in the current headquarters building.

Killinger began working on a way to consolidate headquarters employees about four years ago.

"The idea was, if we could have most of the employees in one location, I could drive the culture I wanted -- a common culture," he said.

The building is grouped into clusters, with every three floors tied together by large staircases, a common color scheme and a shared eating area with more space, nicer furniture and better views than many employees now have in their break rooms.

For an even more inviting lunch experience, the 16th and 17th floors will have a buffet-style dining room and a lounge with indoor and outdoor fireplaces. A 20,000-square-foot rooftop patio is large enough for people to take short walks along footpaths.

Back inside, workers will not be lined up like hamsters in their cubicles. There are airy meeting spaces between desks and among the larger hexagonal cubicles where bosses will sit.

The hope is that employees will move around during the day, sometimes meeting in open areas where they can take in different views. There are meeting rooms and some rooms with doors to make it easier to read or talk privately.

Callison Architecture designed WaMu Center's interior, and its partners said the building's mix of open and closed spaces has become popular with companies looking to improve employees' productivity.

"The open-plan approach really has matured and evolved," said Andrea Vanecko, the partner in charge of Callison's workplace interior-design group.

At first, companies liked open plans because they saved money. Now, some closed rooms are mixed in, and companies have learned how they can use open space to invigorate employees and encourage collaboration, Vanecko said.

For anyone who still works in a building where cavernous hallways are lined by row after row of offices, the improvement will be obvious.

For the executive who worked most of his career to get one of those offices, it will be an adjustment.

WaMu Center
The new headquarters
42 stories reaching 576 feet above the street
1.5 million square feet, including the Seattle Art Museum
35 elevators
103,000 tons of concrete
13,000 tons of structural steel
7,200 tons of reinforcing steel (rebar)
136 miles of wire
54 miles of conduit

Source: Washington Mutual
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Old August 5th, 2010, 06:34 PM   #2
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26 September 2008
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Washington Mutual Inc. came to an ignominious end Thursday, with federal regulators seizing the company and selling its branches, deposits and loans to New York-based banking giant JPMorgan Chase in the largest bank failure in U.S. history.

Although WaMu, as recently as two weeks ago, had told investors that it had sufficient capital to work its way through the housing market and losses in its own loan portfolio, regulators said they stepped in because depositors had lost confidence in the institution. The federal Office of Thrift Supervision said $16.7 billion in deposits had been pulled from the company just since Sept. 15.

"With insufficient liquidity to meet its obligations, WaMu was in an unsafe and unsound condition to transact business," the OTS said in a statement. It turned WaMu over to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which conducted an auction for the company.

JPMorgan Chase, which had actually offered to buy WaMu earlier this year for $8 a share, paid $1.9 billion to FDIC, which said the insurance fund incurred no cost.

"Welcome to JPMorgan Chase," Chief Executive Jamie Dimon told WaMu employees listening to an investor conference call Thursday evening. "We're going to build a great company together."

But many of those employees are understandably nervous about whether they'll be retained by the new owner of WaMu. Although JPMorgan Chase executives said they don't know yet how many jobs might be cut, they did say the company expects to close branches and eliminate duplicative jobs.

"The branch system is a key asset they want to hold on to," said Joseph Phillips, dean of the Albers School of Business and Economics at Seattle University. "Those employees are not at as much risk. The people in the back shop are more at risk."

That will have an especially significant impact on Seattle, WaMu's headquarters town, where it has more than 4,300 employees.

Several WaMu employees said Thursday evening that they didn't know any details about the reported sale.

"Between 4 and 4:30, all the big headlines came out," said Jon Graybill, a corporate recruiter. "We were trying to be focused on the customers, but at the same time, you wonder about where the bank is going to go and what's going to happen about our jobs."

Graybill, 30, said the company has been sending e-mails to employees and keeping them apprised of the situation, but he said he hadn't heard anything Thursday from the company.

"I'm really positive even if we get acquired, we'll be taken care of by upper management," said Kelsey Wesley, 27, a recruiting coordinator, as she left work at corporate headquarters. "I still think many people could have a job here. I'm pretty positive about the whole situation."

For Seattle, WaMu's demise is a blow to civic and business pride that may be felt in tangible ways ranging from employment to civic involvement and philanthropic endeavors.

"It's devastating," said Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce President Steve Leahy. "They've been here since the Seattle Fire. ... The suddenness of all of this, it's just taking our breath away really."

Leahy said he had been hoping that WaMu would be able to strike a deal on its own, without government intervention. Kerry Killinger had served on the chamber's board until he was ousted as WaMu chief executive earlier this month.

The chamber is waiting to see what will happen to WaMu headquarters employees, and whether they'll need help finding employment at other Seattle businesses. The goal is to keep them in the community, he said. "Our thoughts are with all of the people at Washington Mutual at this point," Leahy said.

Besides being a large employer, WaMu is also a major player in Seattle's philanthropic and arts scene, Leahy said. For example, business leaders cheered six years ago when Washington Mutual and the Seattle Art Museum struck a deal to give the bank a new headquarters building and allow the museum to triple its size.

"They're terribly involved in education support and the whole deal that created the Seattle Art Museum as part of that building," Leahy said. "It's a tremendous jolt from all those perspectives."

While JPMorgan Chase may pledge to be involved in the community, its participation will "never (be) like WaMu did," Phillips added.

The takeover of WaMu also means major losses for shareholders (including employees who had held the company's stock), who now have nothing to show for a stock that as recently as the middle of last year sold for more than $44 a share.

The biggest loser is the investor group led by private equity firm TPG, which invested $7.2 billion in WaMu earlier this year in an effort to shore up the company.

"Obviously we are dissatisfied with the loss to our partners and ourselves from our investment in Washington Mutual," a spokesman for TPG said. "The unprecedented turmoil in global financial markets and resulting macro crisis of confidence has radically changed the dynamics for all financial institutions, and has led to widespread losses among investors throughout the sector."

Washington Mutual got caught up in that turmoil, and helped create it, by loading up its loan portfolio several years ago on risky types of lending including subprime mortgages to borrowers with poor credit histories, and adjustable rate mortgages on which customers could set their own monthly payments, even if that didn't cover the interest and the balance actually grew.

As the economy slowed, housing prices fell and adjustable-rate loans reset at higher rates, some borrowers found they could neither make payments nor sell their homes without incurring losses. WaMu had estimated that its loan losses could be as much as $19 billion, although some analysts in recent weeks said the total will be much higher. WaMu had also reported seeing weakening of credit quality in its portfolio of prime mortgages, home equity lines of credit and credit cards. The company's problems were compounded by the fact that much of its business is concentrated in states such as California, Florida and Nevada, where the housing-market slump is worst.

WaMu tried to reassure investors and customers by raising $7.2 billion in capital earlier this year. But as investor confidence continued to wane the company fired longtime CEO Killinger and brought in Alan Fishman, a veteran banker and turnaround specialist. But Fishman had little time to even review operations before regulators, concerned about WaMu's worsening condition, intensified pressure on the company to find a buyer.

JPMorgan Chase said it planned to write down the WaMu loan portfolio by $31 billion. Executives said the deal was not done with the expectation the company could unload bad loans through some sort of government bailout.

The company also said it plans to raise another $8 billion through a stock sale before the opening of the market Friday to bolster capital.

What JPMorgan Chase gets from the deal is WaMu's branch network, in markets where JPMorgan Chase already operates such as New York/ New Jersey, as well as in new markets like the West Coast, "which we're thrilled about," said Charlie Scharf, head of retail financial services.

No executives from WaMu were available for comment Thursday evening.


JPMorgan Chase is buying Washington Mutual's banking operations, including branches, checking and savings accounts, mortgages and credit card accounts. The company offered questions and answers, excerpted below.

Q: What will happen to my account and my branch?

A: You can continue to access your accounts ... just the way you've accessed them in the past: Use your same branch, same debit, credit and ATM cards, same checks.

Q: Is my money safe?

A: Yes. If you have money in both banks, your deposits have separate FDIC insurance for up to six months. ... At that time, your deposits will be insured by the FDIC for up to $100,000 per depositor (with an additional $250,000 for self-directed retirement accounts).

Q: When can I bank at Chase branches in my area?

A: We'll be working hard as quickly as possible to combine systems ... so you can begin to enjoy expanded branch convenience in your area, and we expect system changes to begin late next year. In the meantime, simply continue to bank at WaMu branches as you do today.

Q: I have a Chase credit card, car loan and mortgage. Can I make payments at a WaMu branch now?

A: Not yet! We'll let you know when you can make Chase credit card, car loan, mortgage or other loan payments at WaMu branches, or vice versa.

Q: Where do I send my credit card and loan payments?

A: There is no change in how or where you make payments; payment instructions and addresses remain unchanged.

P-I reporter Bill Virgin can be reached at 206-448-8319 or [email protected].


1889: The Washington National Building Loan and Investment Association incorporates to offer stockholders a safe and profitable vehicle for investing and lending. This allowed the association to help Seattle residents rebuild after the fire.

1890: Company makes first monthly installment home loan on the Pacific Coast, for $700, to a seaman to build in Ballard.

1908: Changes name to Washington Savings and Loan Association.

1923: Company starts "School Savings" program to teach children to save.

1930: Now known as Washington Mutual, it buys Continental Mutual Savings Bank, its first acquisition.

1962: Installs first computer, a fridge-sized IBM 1401 with 4k of memory.

1974: Pioneers first shared cash machine network in U.S.

1982: Kerry Killinger joins Washington Mutual when company acquires brokerage Murphey Favre.

1983: Washington Mutual goes public.

1988: Killinger named president.

1990: Killinger named chief executive.

1991: Killinger named chairman.

1996: Acquires American Savings Bank, a deal that almost doubles it in size.

1998: Company moves stock to NYSE.

2000: Company announces plan to move into Phoenix by opening dozens of branches, a move it will repeat in such markets as Atlanta and Chicago.

2003: Mortgage servicing problems generate complaints and lawsuits; quarterly profits top billion dollars for first time.

2004: Interest-rate, mortgage-market swings catch WaMu out of position; earnings suffer.

2006: Officially adopts WaMu nickname.

2007: Subprime lending woes surface; stock begins slide from more than $44 a share; company lays off thousands of workers, slashes dividend, closes home-loan offices

2008: Stock tumbles to less than $4; more layoffs; board splits chairman/CEO job; WaMu raises $7.2 billion in capital; Killinger pushed out as CEO, Alan Fishman hired; WaMu considers sale. FDIC seizes WaMu, sells it to JP Morgan Chase.

Sources: P-I research, Bloomberg, Washington Mutual


JPMorgan Chase & Co. Inc. bought Washington Mutual Inc.'s banking assets after WaMu was seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in the largest failure ever of a U.S. bank. The combined company will have $900 billion in deposits, about 5,400 branches and 14,000 ATMS in 23 states. Here's a look at the two companies.


Headquarters: Seattle

Employees: 43,198*

CEO: Alan Fisman

Total assets: $307 billion

Deposits: 188.3 billion*

Branches: 2,239


Headquarters: New York

Employees: 195,594*

CEO: Jamie Dimon

Total assets: $1.8 trillion

Bank branches: 3,150

Lines of business: Investment bank, retail financial services, card services, commercial banking, treasury & securities services, asset & wealth management.

*As of June 30

Sources: Washington Mutual Inc., JP Morgan Bank, Bloomberg SEATTLE P-I
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