LAS VEGAS -- Reaffirming its role in helping the underbanked inits stores, a top financial executive of Wal-Mart Stores hasexpanded on the retailer's claims that part of its mission inchartering a Utah industrial loan bank is aimed at filling a voidleft by financial institutions.

Addressing both bank and CU executives here recently for BAI'sannual Retail Delivery conference, Jane Thompson, president ofWal-Mart Financial Services, said the ILC bid "has put a cloud overour in-store bank program", but the overall goal is to servecustomers who would not otherwise be able to obtain financialservices at all. In her speech to a standing room only audience,she noted that up to 20% of U.S. families are unbanked including70% of people who make less than $35,000 and many of these areWal-Mart customers.

It's important, she said, that those banks and CUs, which are"tenants" in Wal-Mart stores, offer products "to those who are veryclose to the edge on cash flow."

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