Marketplace ran a story on Friday about Walmart's banking operations in Mexico. Glom friend Anna Gelpern has written about the Walmart bank, and she was interviewed for the Marketplace story. I blogged about Walmart's prospects as a U.S. bank here, inspired by my now-colleague Mehrsa Baradaran. The U.S. Walmart bank that Mehrsa and I were imagining bears only a slight resemblance to the Mexican version, which "does not offer car loans or mortgages, but ... offer[s] a credit card so customers can buy Wal-Mart merchandise." By the way, the annual interest rate on the credit card is 60 percent. Still, Anna is sanguine about the development for Mexico, where most of the population does not use a bank:
Whatever the pros and cons of a Wal-Mart bank might be in the United States, they look quite different in an environment where, despite recent growth, there is little credit, no competition, and a fresh history of political, economic, and legal instability. Wal-Mart is among the few actors capable of dislodging the dysfunctional status quo.
Banco Walmart "presents a transnational regulatory dilemma," Anna tells us, and that is the subject of her paper. But Walmart is quickly getting on the map for bank regulators. Earlier this summer, the company opened banking operations in Canada, and Sam's Club has started making small business loans. It looks to me like Walmart is developing institutional competence in banking that will serve it well when it moves on a bigger scale into the U.S.
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