I don’t think many of us were surprised to hear of Walmart’s unveiling of a new checking account with an $8.95 monthly fee and no overdraft or returned check fees. After all, the writing has been on the wall for some time, as we’ve watched the mega retailer dip its toes into financial waters.
What was less expected, however, was Walmart’s rollout of health insurance services this month.
So, who is Walmart targeting with these new products? We believe the target is a specific sector of its existing shoppers – the unbanked/underbanked and the uninsured/underinsured markets, and in particular the Hispanic market.
Unbanked individuals do not have a traditional financial institution account, providing a potentially large gap for Walmart to fill. As for the underbanked, these consumers may have a traditional savings or checking account; however they largely rely on non-traditional financial service providers, such as check-cashers and money transfer services, for many of their financial transactions.
Did you know that 1 in 12 U.S. households is unbanked and 1 in 5 U.S. households is underbanked? That’s a total of 34 million households in the U.S., according to the FDIC’s 2011 National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households.
The health insurance market also represents a sizable opportunity for Walmart, as the U.S. uninsured rate is now at the lowest level recorded since 2008. For the Hispanic market, that means nearly 1 in 3 people are uninsured.
Why Walmart Sees Potential in These Markets
There is a misconception about the unbanked and underbanked market all being low-income, high risk and not profitable clientele. Walmart knows better. The U.S. unbanked and underbanked market does include low-income households, yet it also includes immigrants, young people, minority groups and single family households with financial needs.
These individuals spend much of their paychecks on pricey alternative financial services, to now include Walmart’s checking account and prepaid cards. (If you’re thinking $8.95/mo sounds pretty affordable amid news of rising fees, keep in mind the average monthly service fee for a non-interest checking account fell 5 percent to $5.26 over the past 12 months.)
A large percentage of U.S. unbanked and underbanked households are made up of Hispanics. Much of this stems from cultural preferences vs. a lack of financial stability. Hispanics are also the largest, fastest-growing, youngest and most underserved group in the U.S. with more than a trillion in purchasing power – a prime untapped market for credit unions.
One thing is for sure, profit-hungry Walmart would not introduce these products if it did not foresee strong potential. It’s clear their executives have identified the above consumer segments, many of which include Hispanic consumers, as a hot, untapped market. Credit unions must not acquiesce – these markets are tailor-made for the “people helping people” philosophy and are primed for generating tremendous revenue and membership growth.
As Scott Butterfield from Your Credit Union Partner notes in Credit Unions and The Ultimate Category Killer, “Overlook the Hispanic community at your own risk.”Leave a comment