Matt Holden came to the United States from Australia to work in a technology startup. And, like many immigrant stories he was able to realize his dream by successfully launching an early social media marketing platform. Even so, his initial experiences as a new arrival to the United States influenced the trajectory of his career. As an experienced expatriate, he enjoyed many things about the US but was stunned by the logistical difficulty of establishing himself in a new country. It seemed unnecessarily hard.
OFX and Black Opal have more in common than their origin story
The US and Australia have many things in common besides the predominance of English as the founding language. Both countries share a deep military history together and are geographically large and resource rich. Both have a history of valuing individual rights and independence. And, both are relatively new countries with histories that span just less than 250 years. Yet besides the origin of the founders, both Black Opal and OFX are fintech companies with roots in a common place of desire: to serve those with the ambition to live a global lifestyle. At OFX, this happens by enabling people to easily move their money around the world. Whereas, Black Opal does this by helping expats leverage their credit history from one country to more quickly establish credit in their new location. Both companies have an innate corporate value to protect and educate consumers about areas they may not be too familiar with.
Addressing needs from experience
Black Opal is Matt's fourth start-up. He experienced first-hand the challenges of getting established in the US. As a contributing member of society from another developed country, Matt assumed things would be as easy as they were at home. In reality and like all others who move to the United States, his lack of in-country credit and personal history were immediate barriers to overcome. Although he had earned money and paid taxes for years in Australia, none of that carried-over or mattered when it came to getting credit in the US. And when you don’t have credit it is way more difficult to get housing (apartments and home mortgages require credit checks), set up a bank account or even get a car loan.
Like many entrepreneurs, Matt saw a need with scale that he thought he could help with. With 156,000 professionals arriving on employment visas in the US in FY20 from all over the world it was obvious that many had established financial ties and accumulated wealth before they left their home countries. His brilliant idea was to use existing financial strength as an asset on arrival - instead of starting them at zero.
Building a unique business
How do you value a customer? Matt took his idea and built Black Opal to be a credit card provider to expats and other professionals new to the US who need credit to get settled. The approach is novel. It focused on individual creditworthiness, and not on individual credit history. Today, Black Opal is able to extend credit by relying on international credit reports from clients’ home countries. While easy to say, it has been a journey to work with underwriters and the existing US credit system to ensure that Black Opal meets required banking industry standards such as the “Know your customer rule”, and Anti-Money Laundering among other requirements. The name Black Opal is apt because black opals are uniquely Australian and highly prized worldwide - as Matt expects the Black Opal card to become.
Timing is everything
The intended company launch date of 2020 did not, of course, anticipate a global pandemic and they lost a year. To compensate, Black Opal leaders scaled back both their operations and their expectations. Now, they are again gearing up in anticipation of future demand. When the free flow of money and people occurs, Black Opal will be ready and able to help professionals get established more quickly. Partnering with OFX, together we will be able to help new arrivals with access to credit, and help them move money back and forth between the US and their home countries 24/7.
A belief in improving people's lives, taking risks and going where you can grow is our common history. When companies like Google or Oracle provide opportunities for short-term or long-term visas in the US, Black Opal and OFX can help employees more easily get credit and move their money where they need it.
 Annual Numerical Limits FY2020 https://travel.state.gov/content/dam/visas/Statistics/Immigrant-Statistics/Annual%20%20Numerical%20%20Limits%20-%20FY2020.pdf