This week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Cathy Corby Iannuzzelli of KindTap to discuss the rapidly growing sector of payment processing in the cannabis industry, her vision for the future of payment technologies in highly regulated markets, and why cannabis deliveries should implement a payment processing solution for their operation today.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your experience in the payment processing world, and how you ended up working in the cannabis sector with KindTap?
CI: I’ve been working in financial services and payments for 30 years on the card issuing and merchant processing sides of the business. Much of my career has involved launching payment products when the whole product category was new. Things like debit cards, internet banking, e-commerce and prepaid cards we all take for granted now, but there was a lot of pioneering to bring them to market. About 3 years ago while working for a client in Denver, I became aware of how broken payments were in cannabis. Broken isn’t even the right word – payments simply didn’t exist in the cannabis market. My pioneering spirit kicked-in and I refocused my consulting on the cannabis segment. In 2019 I met the founders of KindTap who had deep cannabis expertise and were focused on the cannabis payments problem, as well. We started collaborating on what has now become KindTap and earlier this year I joined the team full-time.
Q: What problem is KindTap aiming to solve in the cannabis industry?
CI: As we all know and experience today, the payment experience for cannabis is friction-filled, both for the consumer as well as the merchant. For the e-commerce experience, there is no actual “commerce” as payment info is not captured online and there remains massive payment friction upon delivery/in-store pickup. For the merchant, they are capturing pre-order sales with no certainty of pickup or payment, and it’s even worse for delivery when drivers are being sent out to collect cash! KindTap aims to solve all of this friction with a very straightforward payments platform for online and in-store commerce, along with a consumer-level loyalty program for every dollar spent within our network of merchants.
Q: How does the lack of traditional banking infrastructure for the cannabis industry negatively impact cannabis businesses?
CI: Unfortunately this is a major problem that will not go away with one or two bills passed at the federal level. We connect with merchants and consumers on a daily basis, and they all want less physical cash in the system. This is one of the core challenges, and with KindTap we aim to remove that physical cash and bring the industry to the 21st century of digital payments.
Q: How is it that KindTap can provide banking and digital payment solutions to plant-touching cannabis businesses while more conventional banks (Chase,Wells Fargo, BoA, etc.) can’t?
CI: Banks are excellent at managing risk. As long as cannabis is illegal at the federal level, it’s a risky business for banks to serve. When weighing the risk-to-benefit, the cannabis segment is simply not large enough to the mega-banks to make the benefit worth the risk. Smaller financial institutions – where the innovation in cannabis banking is taking place – see a large opportunity relative to their size and are investing in people and processes to manage the risk. KindTap has partnered with financial institutions that have a multi-state license to operate, but yet have the size and innovation to work directly in the cannabis industry.
Q: Up until recently, there has been hesitation among plant-touching operators to transition to digital payment solutions due to regulations, among other factors. How has that changed? What does KindTap do to ensure security and safety of an operator’s assets?
CI: KindTap operates within the current regulatory framework for cannabis banking and merchant processing, on a state-by-state basis with no interstate commerce. We do not operate on what they call “federal rails” which is Visa and MasterCard. Think of us like one of the MSOs: They operate state-by-state with a multi-state/national presence, and so does KindTap. Our security and safety of assets is backed by trusted financial institutions and vendors who are in the business of payment processing, with a long-history outside of cannabis.
Q: Cannabis delivery operators across California use KindTap to process customer payments. What are the benefits of payment processing for cannabis delivery?
CI: Great question, as we love to describe where KindTap shines! Our system collects payment information upon checkout, not at the delivery location, which removes the friction of paying cash upon delivery (or a mobile cashless ATM terminal, only to receive physical cash for your change). The consumer not only gets a more seamless delivery experience but also has the ability to earn loyalty rewards for shopping at multiple merchants within the KindTap network, just like AMEX. The merchant LOVES the ability to remove cash from their system, and delivery drivers can now have a more predictable schedule without having to collect cash at each stop. Everyone truly wins.
Q: What’s the biggest obstacle to implementing payment processing for cannabis deliveries? How quickly could operators implement payment processing like KindTap?
CI: Our system allows for operators to implement KindTap within a matter of days on the back-end, in partnership with WebJoint. The biggest obstacle, frankly, is the previous battle scars of other payment processors and the mess they created for cannabis operators and consumers. Once the operator pays attention to KindTap’s offering, then we tend to move forward with implementation without any issues.
Q: What does the future of cannabis banking look like for you?
CI: At KindTap we believe the fragmented banking system will not go away anytime soon, especially on the payment processing side where most providers live at the federal level and changing those regulations will not happen overnight. We built KindTap to thrive in the current banking environment, and whenever federal legalization occurs whereby the “federal rails” of Visa/MasterCard enter the picture, then our business will continue to thrive with our planned transition of our platform to that of a federal-level payments platform.
Q: A recent study by Grand View Research projects the legal cannabis market to reach $84 billion by 2028 and leading up to that, the cannabis payment industry is hotter than ever. What’s next for the KindTap team?
CI: We are excited about our growth roadmap for KindTap. You will read later this year our publicly-announced expansion plans and roll-out of our credit and loyalty features, which will quickly solidify us as the leader in cannabis payments and the first payments provider to offer a digital credit solution to cannabis consumers.
Q: What are a few resources you can share with our audience? What are some of your favorite books, podcasts, software, etc. that have benefited your personal and professional growth in the industry?
CI: Great question. Not to sound like a plug, but I actually learn a lot from WebJoint’s content and white papers, which help me to better understand the delivery side of the business more so than other sources.
Q: Lastly, where can our readers find you and learn more about KindTap?
CI: You can visit our website at www.kindtaptech.com or email us at email@example.com.
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