From where I sit, Washington Mutual (NYSE:WM) is either squandering some pretty good opportunities or building up to really outperform its peers down the road. I say that because the company has made some curious decisions of late, and there's a dichotomy within the company's own performance -- namely that this company's growth hasn't yielded the kind of returns I'd expect.

This quarter was really no different. Revenue rose 17%, but adjusted net income was up only 9% (and income was actually down from last year on a reported basis). And even factoring in those one-time items that hurt income, the company's return on assets and equity and efficiency ratio are still pretty much suboptimal. In other words, they're growing pretty nicely, but not particularly profitably.

Earnings weren't the only news this quarterly release. The company is selling a big chunk of mortgage servicing rights (as well as a processing center) to Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC). WaMu says that this will better balance its business and allow it to focus on higher-margin segments of the home loan sector. I find that interesting, given that mortgage servicing is usually pretty profitable for the capital at stake. What's more, some of the target areas that WaMu mentions (option ARMs and subprime loans) are indeed higher-margin, but higher-risk as well.

I also found it a little interesting that the company's card services group appears to be posting above-market growth, but with above-market trends in delinquencies as well. Perhaps that's just the trade-off that WaMu is willing to take with the business in general -- it'll absorb higher risk in exchange for higher growth.

Look at other large U.S. banks like Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Citigroup (NYSE:C), U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB), SunTrust (NYSE:STI), and so on, and you'll see it's pretty clear that WaMu has a different plan. No big international operations, no big investment banking franchise, and not a lot in the way, really, of any major non-consumer business. Maybe history will show this to be the right setup, and maybe we'll be reading future articles about how the mavericks at WaMu had a better plan than the industry. For this Fool's money, though, I wouldn't bet on it.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).