Banks needn't worry much about MetLife's purchase of a small New Jersey-based bank, despite the huge insurer's plans to use it as a vehicle to enter the consumer banking business. MetLife voices a lot of zeal about getting into the banking business, but its plans don't seem very sharp. Most surprising is who the insurer is putting in charge of the unit. We're sure that Judy Weiss is a fine woman and excellent at what she does. But what she does isn't banking. In fact, she has no experience in banking. She is an actuary, having been MetLife's chief actuary before being put into the banking position.Even experienced bankers have trouble marketing checking and savings accounts, CDs, money market accounts and online banking and bill paymentsthe array of products MetLife says it initially will offer. It's hard to imagine a novice taking on that feat.And Weiss is not starting from a bank with a broad presence that easily could be expanded. The acquired Grand Bank NA of Kingston, NJ (whoever heard of Kingston?), had assets of $84 million as of last Sept. 30. But, of course, the bank has MetLife behind it, a company that lists some 9 million U.S. households among its clients. Based on that, the new MetLife Bank NA, theoretically, could pose a serious threat to established banks. But it doesn't seem to be taking itself very seriously.
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