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“The results of the 2011 National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households indicate that insured financial institutions have an important chance to grow their customer base by expanding opportunities that bring unbanked and underbanked individuals into mainstream banking,” said Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Martin J. Gruenberg when he was still awaiting confirmation.
The survey is the most recent one conducted by the FDIC, meaning the data are slightly antiquated but still broadly relevant. Nearly 24 million households in the United States — one out of every five in the nation — were underbanked in 2011, according to the survey. This is up by 821,000 households since the last survey, in 2009.
While Gruenerg is correct — the huge number of unbanked and underbanked households in the U.S. does represent a huge opportunity for federally insured banking institutions — it also represents a huge opportunity for non-federally insured quasi-financial institutions. One out of four American households have used at least one alternative financial service, according to the 2011 survey, and 12 percent of households use one on a regular basis.