NEW YORK (
(WMT - Get Report)
is not a bank, Wal-Mart is not a bank, Wal-Mart is not a bank.
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
(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