And yet, as Bank of America (BAC - Get Report), which some have called the Wal-Mart of banking, continues to shrink, it gets harder and harder not to notice that Wal-Mart's ties to the banking industry keep getting bigger.
The latest sign of Wal-Mart's banking bust-out can be seen in a recently-announced purchase of 29 Bank of America Midwestern branches by Arvest Bank.
Arvest, which has more than $11 billion in assets and is the largest bank in both Arkansas and Oklahoma, is owned by the Walton family of Wal-Mart fame, and Arvest CEO and Chairman Jim Walton is the youngest son of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton.Still, Wal-Mart and Arvest are completely separate corporate entities. Nudge nudge. Wal-Mart's official efforts to start a bank have been rejected or stymied on at least four occasions since 1999, according to this 2007 Associated Press article . You'd never know it, considering that big U.S. banks own all kinds of non-banking assets, but banking and commerce are suppose to be separate by law. Neither that fact, nor Wal-Mart's stymied efforts to become a bank through official channels, have stopped Wal-Mart's efforts to extend its bland, union-busting dominance into the financial services arena. The retail giant's most visible recent effort to become a financial services power is through the launch earlier this year in a partnership with American Express (AXP - Get Report), of a pre-paid card known as Bluebird. Rest assured, both that and these barely-noticed branch acquisitions by Arvest are only the beginning. -- Written by Dan Freed in New York. Follow @dan_freed