would seek to join forces with Internet companies that support the objectives of its main business lines.
"We intend to form strategic alliances with cutting-edge Internet companies," said William A. Longbrake, chief financial officer. He spoke to a packed roomful of investors last week at a conference sponsored by Friedman, Billings & Ramsey.
Wamu would consider taking minority equity stakes in the companies it works with, he said, with the expectation of reaping benefits from those that go public.
The $175 billion-asset thrift has a minority stake in privately held Keystroke Financial Inc., a Seattle firm that matches mortgage borrowers and lenders on-line. Wamu began accepting mortgage applications through wamumortgage.com, an Internet site powered by Keystroke technology, over Labor Day weekend, a spokeswoman said.
Wamu also is one of four governing owners along with Bank of America, Bank One Corp., and Visa U.S.A. -- of Integrion Financial Network, a consortium formed in 1996 to support home banking. Its commitment to Integrion was solidified before the thrift formulated its alliance strategy, the spokeswoman said.
When Wamu made its Keystroke investment in March, thrift officials said they expected that mortgage loans originated over the Internet would account for 20% to 25% of volume in two to five years. Last quarter, the thrift originated $13.7 billion of mortgage loans.
The plans and partnerships that Washington Mutual are formulating should help it reach that percentage of on-line loans, the spokeswoman said. She said she was not aware of any pending announcements of new alliances.
Matt Andrejczak contributed to this article from Washington.