A chat with Salal Business Development Manager, Amy Ridley
Many financial institutions decline to provide services to cannabis-related businesses, and sometimes these restrictions limit the services available to the individuals who earn their living from one of these businesses. But Salal is here to help. We had a chat with Salal Business Development Manager Amy Ridley to learn more about her role in helping cannabis business owners and employees receive the banking options they need.
Q: What sets Salal apart when it comes to personal banking choices available to cannabis industry professionals?
Amy: Unlike some more limited cannabis-friendly banks and credit unions, we offer a full suite of deposit and loan products, such as checking, savings, certificates of deposit (CDs), money markets, IRA accounts, credit cards, auto loans¹, RV loans¹, home equity loans², and mortgages³.
Q: What are some of the financial challenges that cannabis professionals face when they have an account or get a loan from a bank or credit union that isn’t cannabis-friendly?
Amy: Not being able to get essential banking services like a checking account or an auto loan can be very disruptive. For example, a year or so back, I received a call from one of our producer-processors in Washington state. One of their employees had purchased a car from a local dealer, and the purchase had started to go downhill fast. The employee had traded in her old car and driven a new one home, but then the financing went awry. The financing bank required proof of income to finalize the loan. The employee faxed it over, and then they found out she worked in the cannabis industry. The loan was canceled, and the employee was suddenly left without transportation.
By this time, the dealer had already sold the employee’s trade-in vehicle. The employee had gone into her HR director’s office, letting her know what had happened, telling her director that she did not know how she was going to get to work. The HR director called me in a panic. But Salal was happy to help with a new car loan. The member was able to take a check down to the dealer that day. It makes me so happy when we can make such a positive impact on someone’s life.
Q: And haven’t you encountered situations where cannabis industry workers have had their bank accounts frozen or closed with no warning?
Amy: I sure have. For example, I was visiting a local cannabis retailer. While educating their staff and owners on personal banking and mortgages, I met their greeter. She was a lovely woman who had retired from her corporate job and enjoyed working there part-time.
Soon after that visit, I got a call from the business owner. The greeter had held accounts at a major national bank for 43 years but had just had all her accounts at this bank suddenly closed due to her new part-time job at this cannabis retailer. To top it off, she learned of this account closure over the weekend when her debit card was declined during a purchase. And since she had the account for so long, she had numerous direct payments set up on her account, both credits and debits. She was understandably distraught. Thankfully, we were able to get everything taken care of for her and make the transition to an account with Salal as smooth as possible.
Q: It sounds like there are still some misconceptions when it comes to cannabis industry professionals getting personal banking services. What do you do to help educate people who work in the industry?
Amy: We raise awareness and help educate cannabis workers in a number of different ways. As a credit union focused on providing education as well as banking services, Salal presents virtual and in-person classes on topics ranging from understanding your credit report to how to get a mortgage.
We’ve also created a cannabis-friendly Workplace Banking program. The program has a lot of great features, like exclusive rewards and benefits, and all cannabis business employees qualify—even if your employer doesn’t do their business banking with Salal.
One of the first things I ask a cannabis employee is, are you banking with a cannabis-friendly institution? They usually do not know what that means. They assume that because cannabis is legal in that state, banking must be too. But this assumption can be inaccurate and lead to a lot of headaches.
Q: As a cannabis business owner, how do I get the benefits of the Salal Workplace Banking program for myself and my employees?
Amy: For current Salal Business Banking members, the best place to start is by talking to your Business Account Officer. They can help put you in touch with me for a personal or group consultation. Business owners can also connect with me online.
Once I receive a referral, I’ll first respond with an informational email. I’ll send them our Workplace Banking flier. The flier has more information about the program benefits, including the $75 banking offer⁴ and the $1,000 offer⁵ to receive off mortgage closing costs if you’re in a state in which Salal is licensed to provide mortgages. And that first email always includes a link to our membership application and a link to our Workplace Banking page for additional information to share with existing and new employees.
Q: When a cannabis business owner or employee is interested in taking advantage of Salal Workplace Banking benefits, how do they do that?
Amy: If you are interested in opening an account, I connect you with our Member Outreach team. Once the Outreach representative begins processing, they will reach out to go over the application and answer any questions you may have. Once an application is approved, a Salal representative will open the account, order debit cards and checks, and if you are interested in other financial tools, like a credit card, they will walk you through how to apply for that.
Q: How can new cannabis banking members get help if they have questions about their new account or any other financial topic?
Amy: Even after the account opening process is complete, I still serve as a liaison for many Workplace Banking members in the future. Once they become a Salal member, I like to follow up with them to make sure their account is going well. If a new member has a question or needs help with anything, they can text or email me. I can be their point of contact, or they can contact our Virtual Branch or the Member Outreach representative they worked with. So, there are lots of ways to get the help you need.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to tell cannabis business owners and their staff?
Amy: At Salal we are here to help prevent unexpected financial difficulties. It’s so important that we get the message out there. The last thing we want to see is more people lose access to their bank account and funds for days, scramble to finish a car loan, or have their vehicle repossessed because their bank found out they work in the industry and they aren’t a cannabis-friendly institution. These challenges can be overcome or avoided altogether.