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WaMu to Layoff Thousands

3rd quarter layoffs 1,500; 4,000 more planned

October 30, 2003

By MortgageDaily.com staff

Following some of the best times ever for the mortgage industry, 4,000 layoffs are in sight at a behemoth west coast thrift.

In a recent conference call, Washington Mutual Inc.'s chief executive Kerry Killinger announced the projected layoffs and confirmed the company cut 1,500 additional full-time, home-loan jobs during the third quarter.

The mortgage industry saw more loan applications in early June than any other week in history, according the Mortgage Bankers Association of America. Freddie Mac reported that the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage bottomed out the following week, falling to 5.21%.

Favorable rates and high amounts of refinancings led to increased expenses such as overtime, outsourcing, and contract and temporary staffing in WaMu's home lending department, said vice president Tom Casey.

"With the refinancing wave slowing ... we feel we are in a good position to reduce these variable costs further, while maintaining appropriate service levels and meeting current loan demand," said Casey.

"Reducing the overall cost structure will be vital to driving earnings growth in 2004," added Killinger.

WaMu said the 4,000 layoffs in the home loan area will initially affect temporary staff and then move toward full-time employees, which total 22,000. Overall employment at WaMu totals 59,100, the company said.

Furthermore, Killinger said the refinance boom slowed its efforts to integrate the operations of its acquisitions. The realigned management will work to increase the financial efficiency from these acquisitions in the home lending area to further cut costs, he added.

Spiked rates and operational problems reportedly contributed to a $126 million net loss from mortgage loans during the third quarter.

Nonetheless, home loan volume rose to $115.4 billion from the second quarter's $108.2 billion. And, its total servicing portfolio stood at $764.5 billion.

Despite plans to cut mortgage jobs, the company said it opened 25 home loan centers in the third quarter and remains on track to open a total of 70 in 2003.

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