Beware The Bank-In-A-Box From One Of The Biggest Of Big Box Retailers

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NEW ORLEANS-Walmart Stores Inc. is beginning to roll out automated MoneyCenters next week.

The "MoneyCenter in a box" concept will feature ATM-like machines positioned in stores that don't have full MoneyCenters, said Jane Thompson, the outgoing president of Walmart's financial services unit. Thompson, who will retire at the end of the month after nine years of service with the retailer, spoke during the 6th Annual Underbanked Financial Services Forum in New Orleans, according to American Banker, an affiliate of Credit Union Journal.

Thompson would not say exactly how many express MoneyCenters will be part of the pilot program, or where they will be located.

"It's going to be kind of like 'Where's Waldo,' " she said. "You'll have to find them."

Currently, Walmart has more than 1,000 MoneyCenters throughout the country that provide check cashing, bill payment, wire transfers and other services and have customer service representatives. They are one of the most profitable areas in Walmart stores, Thompson said.

Thompson offered the attendees at the conference-which is jointly presented by American Banker and the Center for Financial Services Innovation-some parting words of wisdom.

"Last year we helped customers in this space save over $400 million," she said. "Our lower prices are helping others lower prices."

Later, she added: "As I step back from Walmart, the DNA of Walmart will be a little less in my blood stream. ...But everyday low price and everyday low cost is something that can go beyond Walmart."

Thompson won't necessarily disappear entirely from financial services after she retires.

"I really don't know what I'm going to do next," she said. "I hope there is something I can do in this area."

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