Magazine article American Banker

Sears' Big Push Is in Financial Network

Magazine article American Banker

Sears' Big Push Is in Financial Network

Article excerpt

CHICAGO -- You can deep your commercial customers, banks. Sears, Roebuck and Co., just wants the 39 million American households that regularly shop at Sears to also use the Sears financial network.

That was the gist of a message Richard M. Jones, Sears vice chairman and chief financial officer, delivered Friday to the annual meetin of the Association of Bank Holding Companies in Newport, R.I.

"At every step -- when a need for financial, banking or real estate services arises -- we want those customers to think first of Sears and its financial network," he said.

But Sears' goals and its fate "may depend less on the will of the marketplace than on the will of legislators and regulatory agencies," Mr. Jones said.

"The healthy trend of recent years toward deregulation of the financial services industry is far from fulfilled. And the issue, in the minds of some, is far from settled."

He suggested that in the continuing debate over financial services legislation, institutions should not focus on what they have to lose but rather on what consumers have to gain.

"At the top of the list, of course, is safety for funds entrusted to our care," Mr. Jones said. But beyond that there must be concern for the encouragement of savings and investment and the ability to offer consumers the widest possible range of financial options.

Mr. Jones disputed the contention that deregulation will benefit only the larger banks, insurance companies, brokerage houses, or diversified organizations. Instead, he argued, it will foster competition. Sears, as the nation's largest retailer, still has less than a 5% market share.

"Everywhere we operate -- from small towns to big cities -- we have competition." And, he added, a truly competitive marketplace also broadens the range of choices for companies. …

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