Avidia Bank + Green Check Verified
Nicolas Karmelek, Chief Risk Officer, Avidia Bank
Matthew Simas, AVP, Assistant BSA Officer, Avidia Bank
Tell us about Avidia Bank and how the institution got started with cannabis banking.
Four years ago, Avidia Bank decided to enter into Cannabis Banking as a way to support cannabis-related businesses in our community. We did our research and worked with the CCC and active businesses to learn the industry. Our goal was to make sure businesses in our community had options when it came to their banking needs; especially commercial businesses which we focus on supporting. Cannabis businesses were opening all around us and we felt that supporting those business owners was important, much in the same way we support other business owners in our community. We focused our program on new licensees coming into the industry, with a specific focus on Social Equity Program participants and micro businesses. We continue to focus on building relationships within the industry and Green Check helps to make sure our cannabis banking program is sustainable for the long term.
Avidia has long served the cannabis industry. Could you describe the types of businesses you work with and the current and future goals for your program?
For the past several years, as a Community Bank, we’ve grown our relationships with all types of cannabis businesses throughout the state of Massachusetts. We began working with companies in the licensing process who were in the early stages of development. Our goal was to provide those who were working to obtain Host Agreements with various towns/cities with an opportunity to easily bank with a partner that understands commercial business needs. Our program began with businesses involved in either Cultivation, Manufacturing, or Retail Sales; however, we also started when businesses in the CCC’s social equity program were being licensed. We decided to tailor our program to attract those businesses by providing more affordable pricing for banking services. Our goal was to help those who most need the help to get their business up and running, and is something that we are proud of. We continue to update and adapt our program to the additional licenses and license types being issued by the CCC, and hope to continue to provide additional services over time.
Massachusetts is a uniquely competitive market for cannabis banking. Could you describe the products and services you offer to cannabis businesses and how you differ from the competition?
Our program focuses on a private banking relationship; our customers are assigned several individuals that can help them with their needs. Commercial banking is an area in which we excel and we aim to make banking something our customers don’t need to worry about so that they can focus on driving their business and personal growth. We focus on the entire customer relationship, whether it be commercial banking needs, personal banking needs, or employee banking needs, to make sure our cannabis customers have access to what they and their stakeholders need. The competitive market for cannabis banking within Massachusetts continues to evolve, and we are trying to continue to expand our product and services to meet the needs of the industry as well. We also continue to try to offer lower account fees as our compliance requirements evolve over time.
What feedback have you received about your program, both from cannabis businesses and other businesses in the communities you serve?
So far, the feedback that we’ve received has been positive from the customers that we serve. We’re never going to be perfect, but we focus on learning from and listening to our customers so that we can adapt as they and the industry evolve. We approach our program trying to build lasting, long-term relationships with our customers. One of our customers likes to say that the best thing about the industry is the people; we focus on getting to know and understand the people so that we can help to meet their needs. We’ve tried to make the application process as simple as possible, focused on meeting customers’ product needs, and supported businesses in whatever way we can by offering referrals for various services that cannabis businesses might need. Whether positive or constructive, any feedback we receive only helps us to provide better services to the industry.
Why did Avidia choose Green Check Verified as its cannabis banking partner?
We chose Green Check Verified as its Cannabis banking partner for many reasons. We’ve always been impressed with the quick response time from Green Check, the continuous support they provide to us and our customers, and the always-evolving software advancements that have taken place over the past four years. With our partnership, we don’t have to worry as much about being compliant because Green Check supports us to remain in compliance with the various state and federal laws and regulations. Our cannabis program has successfully grown to where it is today, serving more than 20 direct marijuana businesses and many more related businesses, due to Green Check’s support and software.
What has the experience been like working with Green Check Verified?
The experience with Green Check Verified has felt like a strong partnership since we first started working together. We are not shy about providing our input on the software, and hopefully, that has helped Green Check to provide the best product out on the market. Green Check has also helped to support the growth of our program and has helped us to automate tasks and requirements which has helped the bank meet our required obligations.
Do you have any advice for other financial institutions considering entering the space?
The most important aspect is doing your research on the industry and knowing what you’ll need to run a successful program. We wanted to create a long-lasting, sustainable program and were looking for partners we could engage with, such as Green Check Verified, that were focused on similar goals. Green Check worked very closely with us to garner feedback and design a tool that provided value to our program, and that close working relationship has continued for over 4 years.
Do you have any advice for cannabis businesses looking to secure better banking services?
Don’t settle for the first bank that’s willing to give you an account. Do your research to make sure that they have the products, services, technology, and sustainable program that will support you for the long term. Technology is so critical today for any business, and we try to provide technology that helps businesses run their operations. Lastly, talk to your bank about the industry and compliance requirements. We try to advise our clients on the industry as much as we can, including on meeting compliance requirements. We’ve had a few instances where we’ve helped businesses meet the CCC requirements because we are knowledgeable on them and are looking out for their best interests.
If a cannabis-related business would like to learn more about working with Avidia, what is the best way for them to contact you?
The easiest way to contact us is through our website. https://www.avidiabank.com/contact-business-banking/