The investment unit of Seattle-based Washington Mutual Inc. is gearing up to increase revenues by 15% next year.
In line with financial targets announced by its parent in November, WM Financial Services is adding salespeople and working to increase referrals from bank employees to dedicated brokers, said J. Pamela Dawson, the unit's president.
WM Financial Services will have net income, before taxes, of over $100 million in 1999, Ms. Dawson said, up from $47.1 million last year.
WM Financial Services has grown largely through acquisition. Early this year 180 series 7 licensed brokers and over 600 platform brokers joined the unit from H.F. Ahmanson & Co., which Washington Mutual acquired in October 1998. And in 1997, WM Financial Services absorbed the brokerage units of two California thrifts acquired by Washington Mutual.
Now the $181 billion-asset thrift company is focused on internal growth and will work to increase the percentage of its retail customers who use its financial planning services, Ms. Dawson said. That number is currently 4.9%.
WM Financial Services plans to increase its team of series 7 licensed brokers to 540 by April, from 500, and the number of platform salespeople licensed to sell insurance products to 1,100, from 750.
Another key step, Ms. Dawson said, will be boosting the number of referrals from platform salespeople - who sell fixed annuities - to dedicated financial consultants.
The unit is seeking "to be more proactive with customers," Ms. Dawson said. For example, brokers will be provided with more detailed customer and product lists and be given scenarios and guidelines to use with the lists.
WM Financial Services will supplement these efforts with continuing direct mail campaigns, as well as local advertisements announcing the hiring of financial consultants.
The financial services unit is also looking to triple commissions from life insurance products next year, which should provide cross-selling opportunities by getting clients to think about estate planning, Ms. Dawson said.
WM Financial Services has done a good job of accumulating wealth for its clients, she said. "Now we have the opportunity to see wealth transferred the most tax-efficient way to our clients' beneficiaries. That gives us the opportunity to gain the beneficiaries" as customers.