An executive of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Monday defended to federal regulators the company’s proposed expansion of its empire into banking as a parade of objectors prepared to make the case against the move.

The first-ever public hearings by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on a bank application are drawing a wave of opposition to the move by the world’s largest retailer. The company insists that consumers and retail banks have nothing to fear and is pledging to stay out of branch banking and consumer lending.