On a bleak January day, Washington Mutual Bank's downtown Seattle branch is a welcome relief from the city's gray skies and cold rain.

Like the Starbucks coffeehouses on every streetcorner, the Wamu branch's teak counters, white walls, and brightly colored advertising mobiles evoke a kind of minimalist cool. That may be no coincidence. The thrift's chairman, Kerry K. Killinger, wants to dominate the business of selling checking accounts, mutual funds, and loans, much as Starbucks does the coffeehouse trade.

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