For the second time in just over a year, Washington Mutual Inc.'s investments unit will undergo a makeover after an acquisition by its parent.
On Jan. 1, Wamu, as the Seattle thrift company is known, plans to integrate Griffin Financial Services, the brokerage unit of H.F. Ahmanson & Co., into its WM Financial Services unit. Griffin brings 180 Series 7- licensed brokers to Wamu, boosting its sales force to 480, said J. Pamela Dawson, president of WM Financial Services.
Wamu bought Ahmanson of Irwindale, Calif., on Oct. 1 for about $6.9 billion. The deal followed closely on the heels of Wamu's 1997 acquisition of Great Western Financial Corp., which also boosted the Seattle company's investments unit.
Ahmanson more than doubles, to 1,200, the number of platform brokers selling fixed annuity products in Wamu branches, Ms. Dawson said. As a result of the Ahmanson deal, the thrift has 1,200 branches in eight states.
Wamu also snares from Griffin a new fixed annuity product, which will be renamed the WM Income Builder. The Griffin name will be absorbed into WM Financial Services, Ms. Dawson said.
In February, Wamu plans to merge the back-office and clearing capabilities of both brokerages. That will require switching account clearing for Griffin customers from National Financial Services Corp., a division of Fidelity Investments, Boston, to BHC Securities Inc., Philadelphia, the Seattle thrift's back-office provider, said Ms. Dawson.
Ms. Dawson said she does not anticipate any job loss as a result of the brokerage integration. In fact, Wamu wants to increase its broker ranks to around 500, she said.
In the mutual fund area, the thrift stands to gain $1.2 billion of assets through the nine-portfolio Griffin Funds family, said Bill Papesh, president of WM Advisors, Wamu's asset management arm. Pending approval by the Griffin Funds' board, Mr. Papesh said, he would like to merge the portfolios into the $4.6 billion WM Group of Funds within six months.
All the Griffin funds would be absorbed into existing WM portfolios, he said.
Mr. Papesh suggested that the Griffin Funds will not be the last fund complex to be integrated into the WM unit. Washington Mutual's chief executive Kerry Killinger is committed to investment management and wants to increase the company's presence in this area, Mr. Papesh said.
"Mr. Killinger said that he sees the asset management business as one of the bright spots at the bank," he said.
Just more than a year ago, the WM Funds got an injection of 27 funds through Wamu's purchase of Great Western with its Sierra Fund family. Wamu, a $158.5 billion-asset thrift, has made 23 acquisitions in the past 15 years.
Ms. Dawson, the brokerage chief, hails from American Savings Bank, which Wamu bought at the end of 1996, shortly before the Great Western deal.