(07/23/2005)
Stand back! The WalMart bank could be coming to your community.

During a period when small community banks have been taken-over by large banking corporations, ending an era of locally owned and operated facilities, there could be another wave coming.

WalMart has taken the first steps to get into the banking business.

"It alarms me and it concerns me for the community banking industry," says Donna Tanner who is the Executive Director of the West Virginia Association of Community Bankers.

The retail giant has applied to establish an industrial bank in Utah. It's seen by many as a first step into the banking business for WalMart.

WalMart says having their own bank could save them millions of dollars that they now pay to process purchases made with a credit card. They say it will save customers money, cashing checks or using an ATM.

A banking analyst says it's a proposal that would be the "biggest competitive threat the banking industry has ever faced."

WalMart stores have eliminated most mom-and-pop stores, groceries, drug stores, retail and service outlets across the USA.

Now, it may be time to eliminate local banks.

Phil Vallandingham with The First State Bank in Barboursville, West Virginia says the issue goes beyond just that of increased competition.

"I've never believed that it would be useful to have commerce have banking rights." He says the paths of commerce and banking do not go together.

"Someone has to stop and ask what kind of threat does it pose to the entire system, the entire banking system in our country as we know it," he said.

"It should be fully debated, fully considered and determined if this is what our society and our nation and our government really want to direct the banking industry rather than someone taking advantage of some loophole in a law somewhere," Vallandingham concluded.


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