Wal-Mart's Bank Shot

If the retailer gets its giant foot into the game, will small-town bankers--or high service fees--survive?

The First National Bank of Hope, Kans., a town where the noon whistle blows daily for its 400 residents, has survived all kinds of competition. The rural bank has remained independently owned for its entire 83 years, even through the Great Depression, says Dan Coup, its president and CEO. But Coup is worried that his bank may not survive what he sees on the horizon: Wal-Mart. "They could run us out of business in a heartbeat."

Coup is one of the community bankers who have turned a routine regulatory application into a referendum on the world's biggest retailer. Wal-Mart submitted a...

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