Walmart wants to combine big box and big bank
There are already more potential Walmart banking locations than any of America's four largest banks.
Walmart isn’t content with just selling almost any item under the sun—they also want to hold on to your money. As Bloomberg revealed earlier today, the big box retailer appears to be finally moving forward with its massive, long-rumored fintech project. The project will offer digital bank accounts, called One, for its 1.6 million employees, as well as eventually the millions of daily customers reliant on its brick-and-mortar stores and online shopping.
Earlier this year, Walmart purchased two smaller fintech startups, Even Responsible Finance, Inc. and One Finance, Inc., subsequently combining the two under the latter’s name for a standalone, independent company—albeit a standalone company that counts Walmart as its majority shareholder. Within the coming weeks, employees along with a small number of online customers will purportedly gain beta access to digital banking accounts. From there, One reportedly plans to expand access to the general public and eventually offer a slate of standard services like loans and investment planning in order to become a “one-stop shop for consumers’ financial needs,” according to anonymous sources speaking with Bloomberg.
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It’s hard to overstate how major a moment this could be for consumer finances. Walmart has long offered MoneyService stations at its locations providing customers with options like cash checking, tax prep aid, and transnational money transfers, as well as rewards partnerships with various credit and prepaid debit card providers. A direct, in-house banking system, however, could present an entirely new era for the company, as well as the larger financial world.
With over 5,300 physical stores across the US, Bloomberg notes that Walmart already has more potential banking locations than any of America’s four largest banks: JP Morgan Chase, CitiBank, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America. The company’s own estimates of 150 million weekly customers—90-percent of whom purportedly live within 10 minutes of a Walmart—means the big box’s ubiquity and convenience could be a huge draw for a banking alternative. Sources also relayed to Bloomberg that store employees will be incentivized to open One accounts with features like getting paid via direct deposit at the end of every shift instead of waiting for biweekly checks.
There is no current definite timeline for an official public launch, but major banking institutions, competitors, and federal watchdogs are likely keeping a close eye on developments. In preparation for the coming fintech shift, the existing One app will soon undergo a makeover to offer 2-percent cash back for every dollar spent at gas stations, drugstores, and—of course—Walmart.