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Washington Mutual Federal Savings Bank has launched an expansion into the local banking market by opening four full-service financial centers inside Fred Meyer stores in Salt Lake City and Ogden.

Washington Mutual, which already runs a home loan center in Salt Lake City, plans to have as many as 17 banking locations in the area by the end of the year, including Logan, Park City and West Jordan.Additionally, Washington Mutual Inc., the bank's parent company, expects to complete plans to acquire Olympus Capital Corp., the parent company of Olympus Bank, by the second quarter. That would add nine Olympus Bank branches in Salt lake City, Ogden and Provo to Washington Mutual's network.

In-store banking has gained in popularity in recent years. Last year, there were 2,505 store branch banks across the nation. Two decades ago, there were fewer than 100.

Washington Mutual officials say their in-store financial centers will be two to three times larger than the national average of 400-square-feet for other in-store locations. That will allow a full line of services for customers and a flow of 20,000 to 30,000 customers walking by the in-store banks.

Each will have at least three teller windows, three customer-service desks, a new accounts area and an automated teller machine.

Market research shows people generally visit stores to buy food between two and four times a week, which is more often than people typically visit their bank.