Customersreassuredafter bankacquired

September 27, 2008 12:00 am

By Kelley Atherton

Local Washington Mutual customers were assured Friday that they won't feel a sting from the $1.9 billion acquisition of WaMu after it was seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in the largest failure ever of a U.S. bank.

WaMu was purchased by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Kris Fournier, manager of the WaMu branch on 3rd and H streets, said Friday that the purchase won't affect customers. The difference is that accounts are now owned by JPMorgan.

"It's business as usual," Fournier said, motioning around the bank. "We're all still here."

Physically the bank will look different, though. In about six months JPMorgan will begin "rebranding" WaMu, she said.

WaMu's seizure by one of the largest banks in the country is actually a relief, Fournier said, because "the uncertainty is gone."

Customers will now have more security being backed by JPMorgan, which has $2 trillion in assets, she said.

To ease customer's minds, the branch was having a beach party Friday.

"Life's a beach," Fournier said. "We're going to get through it. JPMorgan Chase saved the day."

In the days leading up to the acquisition, customers were "definitely" concerned about whether their money was insured, she said.

"In a town like this," Fournier said, "people need to know their money is safe."

Mercedes Bollinger, a local resident who has been banking with WaMu for 20 years, said she's not really concerned about the sale to JPMorgan.

"At first we were afraid our money would be tied up for a few days," Bollinger said, while waiting to speak with Fournier.

She just wanted to make sure her money was insured. It doesn't matter who owns it or what the bank looks like, she added.

"As long as the service and the rates are good," Bollinger said. "That's the main thing."

Another WaMu customer, Jenny Sydathong, had gone in to do her regular banking Friday morning when she heard about the acquisition.

She also said the news wasn't a "big concern."