July 19, 2005

Cost Savings from Bank Ownership

WM wants its own industrial bank in Utah.

Discount behemoth Wal-Mart announced Tuesday that it is seeking to establish an "industrial bank" in Utah that would help eliminate third-party transaction costs that the retailer currently incurs from processing of credit, debit card and electronic check transactions in its stores.

According to the company, Wal-Mart receives more than 140 million credit, debit and electronic check payments per month and pays a small fee to process each transaction.

Of course, independent bankers are worried.... as are some lawmakers... and some anti-Wal-Mart activists...

But let's do some back-of-the-envelope math: 140 million monthly x 12 = 1.7 billion transactions annually. Five minutes of research tells me that the average cost is about 10¢ per ACH transaction, which is the approximate amount Wal-Mart pays to its banks. But about about half of that is paid by the bank to the ACH network. Hence, I'd estimate that Wal-Mart stands to avoid paying about 1.7 billion x 5¢ = $85 million dollars in fees annually, because it will be paying them to itself.

The real savings to Wal-Mart will be if it 1) can run its own bank more efficiently than its current third-party bank, 2) can eventually turn this industrial bank into a consumer bank.

In addition, I gather that this will permit a savings in personnel in Bentonville, as will be used as a reorganizing tool in the business process arena...

Posted by Kevin on July, 19 2005 at 02:40 PM