Jackson concedes there would be challenges with introducing financial services through the Postal Service. For example, while he mainly sees the agency's many locations as an advantage, there would be an expense associated with outfitting all those locations with the infrastructure needed for distributing new products.But partnering with a financial services provider potentially could reduce the startup cost. "They don't necessarily have to build something from scratch," Jackson says. "They could white-label it."
Still, Ely is skeptical. "A lot of post offices are really busy and have long lines. My theory is as they cut back on the number of post offices and try to cut costs, the window service at the post office is going to get even worse."
But perhaps the biggest obstacle to the post office selling banking products is political. Even getting prepaid cards into its lobbies was an uphill battle. "You would think that would be a slam dunk, but nonetheless it took intense discussion and finally approval by our regulators before we were allowed to do that," Corbett says.
Corbett is hopeful that, with legislative support, the USPS can get back in the black within a few years. And then it's anyone's guess whether banking at the local post office might be a possibility, provided the financial services sector isn't quite as crowded with competitors as it now, he says.
"In five years, if the landscape is different and we're at an operating profit, nothing's off the table if it makes sense," Corbett says.