MetLife Gets Out Of Banking Business, Sells Deposits To GE Capital

Washington (Los Angeles Times/MCT) -

Snoopy is getting out of the banking business.

Insurance giant MetLife Inc., which uses Peanuts characters as its corporate mascots, on Monday closed a deal to sell its banking assets.

GE Capital Retail Bank, a subsidiary of General Electric Co., acquired MetLife Bank’s $6.4 billion in deposits and its online banking operation, the companies announced. Financial terms of the deal were not released.

The move came after MetLife Bank’s federal regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, approved the transaction last month. MetLife said it has already started the process of deregistering as a bank holding company.

MetLife has had a banking operation since 2001.

“The closing of the transaction with GE Capital is an important step in the process of exiting retail banking, and allows MetLife to maintain its strategic focus as a global insurance and employee benefits leader,” said MetLife Chief Executive Steven A. Kandarian.

By leaving the banking business, MetLife would escape federal restrictions on its broader operations. It did not take any bailout money during the 2008 financial crisis, but because of the company’s overall size, it qualified as one of the nation’s largest bank holding companies.

Last year, MetLife Bank was one of four of the nation’s 19 largest banks that failed a Federal Reserve stress test to determine how well they could handle a worst-case economic scenario. The failure meant those banks were not allowed to increase dividends or buy back additional stock.

For GE, the deal brings “an established online banking platform,” the company said. GE Capital Retail Bank offers credit cards and other consumer lending, but did not take deposits.

“This strategic transaction is a strong fit for our business,” said Margaret Keane, chief executive of GE Capital Retail Bank and GE Capital Retail Finance. “We will be able to leverage our existing infrastructure and capabilities to seamlessly integrate MetLife’s online deposit business and serve these valued customers.”