- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Urban Trust Bank, the financial institution started by Black Entertainment Television founder Robert L. Johnson, plans to open branches inside Wal-Mart stores.

The bank announced yesterday that it will lease space inside Wal-Marts and will offer a “full suite” of banking services.

Officials hope to open several branches by the end of the year, starting with Orlando, Fla., followed by the Washington area and the rest of the East Coast, spokesman Michael Reyes said last night.

“Our banking alliance with Wal-Mart extends a philosophy that is intent upon providing additional wealth-creation opportunities for Wal-Mart customers and associates,” Mr. Johnson said. “Our alliance will allow Urban Trust Bank to reach its target market, provide more convenient locations to our customers, and grow our customer base.”

When Urban Trust opened in the District in September, the bank adopted the business plan of a community bank designed largely for minority customers. It focuses on home buyers, small businesses and student-loan applicants who might be denied loans by larger institutions.

At Wal-Mart, it will have traditional banking services as well as provide access to credit and financial education, it said. It also will focus on wealth creation and educational tools to improve customers’ financial capabilities.

“Urban Trust Bank brings banking services to Wal-Mart customers in underserved urban and minority communities,” said Lee Scott, chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Urban Trust opened its first local branch in September at 1350 I St. NW in the District’s central business district. Although the headquarters is in Bethesda, the bank’s directors chose the downtown site for the branch office to reach the thousands of office workers who walk or drive nearby each day.

Mr. Johnson acquired his first bank in March in Orlando, which gave him and his business partners the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. charter that they needed to open other branches throughout the Washington area.

Mr. Johnson, a billionaire who was ranked 374th on Fortune magazine’s list of the 400 richest Americans last week, has said the bank is being backed by reserves from his financial services, hotel, real estate and entertainment businesses.

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