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Why Does Everyone Suddenly Want to Be a Bank?

First came, “the online marketplace for people-to-people lending” — think eBay meets Craig’s List meets (potentially) Shylock. Then comes word that WalMart wants to get into the banking business. In tomorrow’s papers, look for news that Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television and majority owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats, is buying Metro Bank in Orlando, renaming it Urban Trust Bank, and will try to parley it into a network of banks to serve the currently underserved urban populations across the U.S. Although I haven’t read anything about it lately, I recall that Russell Simmons was trying to start a debit-card network in urban areas as well.