- Walmart applied for a trademark last week on the name Hazel by Walmart, according to a filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), revealing details about a secretive startup it has in the works.
- The filing, which lists a litany of financial services the company may offer, could give clues as to the name and mission of the fintech startup the retailer intends to launch with its venture-capital firm partner, Ribbit Capital.
- The startup made waves last month by poaching two top executives — Omer Ismail and David Stark — from Goldman Sachs’s consumer bank, Marcus.
The trademark filing lists several standard payment services Hazel might offer: credit card, debit card and prepaid card payment processing services as well as electronic funds transfer, credit card and credit line issuing, and bill payment services. It also veers into financial services, with online banking and lending offerings.
The filing suggests the new business will seek to capture market share across the wealth spectrum, targeting well-heeled clients with services like financial portfolio analysis services, financial research and information services as well as those who are less affluent, with offerings such as credit repair and restoration, as well as credit and financial consultation.
It even leaves an opening for crypto, with references to providing virtual currency transaction processing services for others.
The filing also gives users a sneak peek at a logo in which the word "hazel" is lower-case with the "a" replaced by a raised "^" symbol, and the words "by Walmart" appear in small, right-justified type underneath.
The filing has not been approved and is "awaiting examination," the USPTO told Bloomberg. A Walmart spokesperson declined to comment to the wire service.
The retailer has been fairly tight-lipped about its fintech venture, saying in January that it would "develop and offer modern, innovative and affordable financial solutions" and "bring together Walmart's retail knowledge and scale with Ribbit's fintech expertise to deliver tech-driven financial experiences tailored to Walmart's customers and associates."
Walmart CEO Doug McMillon followed up in February at an investor conference, saying "this new approach will help us deliver for [customers] in a differentiated way more quickly."
The secrecy strategy may be warranted. "The minute you start talking about Walmart and banking, the alarm bells go off," banking consultant Bert Ely told Bloomberg in late February.
Bank trade groups and lawmakers fought the retailer’s previous effort to enter the banking space. It filed for an industrial loan company (ILC) charter in 2005 only to withdraw its application two years later. But as a growing number of nonbanks such as Rakuten apply for charters, those opposed still invoke Walmart’s name.
"Just before the last crisis, regulators gutted financial rules and even considered letting megacorporations like Walmart own banks — and here we go again," Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH, now chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said in March 2020, after the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) approved its first new ILC charters in more than a decade.
Walmart has not communicated a launch date for its fintech startup. A spokesperson for the company has, however, said it isn't planning to apply for an ILC charter.