An Expat’s Journey to Europe

How I created Ocyan, a startup to solve the financial inclusion for any expat, after going through the struggles to make myself part of the local economy.

Gabriele Cacciola, Ocyan

Moving to a new country is relatively easy, but integrating with the local bureaucracy and system is one of the hardest things that you will do, and this is my story on how I managed to achieve it, when I moved from Italy to the UK.

Hi, I’m Gabriele and my story starts a long time ago, in a country far, far away, while I was in Italy. As most of us I got a job offer, an opportunity to work for a big enterprise in London. Obviously it was a great temptation that you could hardly look away, yet it had one big obstacle: I had to move to the UK.

You see, I thought relocation was easy, as I had been to Australia for my postgraduate studies, but apparently permanent relocation is a whole other story that I was set to soon find out.

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Myself in Brisbane, 2014

So first thing first I researched and wrote down a list of things that I needed to do when I moved there to live, and the list had these major tasks: to get a bank account, a mobile contract with enough data allowance, a new accommodation to rent and find the best deal for my utility bills, and finally get a new credit card to get along with the essentials during the initial months.

The critical tasks I needed to complete first were getting a bank account, a local mobile contract, and setting up my accommodation process.

Gabriele Cacciola, Ocyan

As an initial step I started with the bank account, as you can’t really do anything else without it. Yet, it was 2015 and Revolut-like banks were not a thing, so my only option was traditional banking branches. Then, having no other option, I went to open a bank account armed with my passport.

Little I knew, and after a long and unproductive discussion with the banking staff I got rejected. To my surprise I asked why, and the only answer I ever received was “I don’t know, our central servers just said no.”.

Having no other choice, I managed to convince my friend to “guarantee” for me in order to open my new bank account. I honestly don’t know how else I would have managed if I didn’t have this option.

The following day and onwards to my next task I went down again to get a mobile. It was immediately clear that my best option for my lifestyle, I needed a standard contract, as the prepaid (pay as you go) plans clearly didn’t fit.

Confident enough, and after having obtained my debit card from my new bank I went, only to be rejected again. This time I got two reasons, my proof of address and my local financial history weren’t in any record that they could find.

Trying to keep my morale high I had found a place through the local listing sites to view so I could rent, and oh my God that was the trickiest of all parts.

Obviously the requirement of a bank account was paramount, but the reason that I got rejected (again) was due to the fact that my address history (which was in Italy) couldn’t be confirmed by the local agency office. This meant I had to pay in advance an extended deposit of 6 months, and if you can do the maths a 6-months rent in London is cash that you can’t easily have available.

The reason that I got rejected was due to the fact that my address history couldn’t be confirmed by the local agency offices.

Gabriele Cacciola, Ocyan

Thankfully I had great friends, and Cettina and Giovanni (hey guys, thank you so much!) lent me their inflatable bed to use, so I managed to save enough cash for the next deposit while searching for the right place.

Last but not least, I needed some cash to spare in order to survive before my first salary would land in my brand new bank account. That’s the classical use case for a credit card, so I went to my bank branch again to ask them for some additional support, only to be rejected. Again. Leaving me no other option, but rather to ask the only institution that could never say no to me, my mum (thanks mum!).

So after all these blood and tears, I only managed to have the basics to survive in the big city, but then again why did I struggle so much? As a person, I never had any past issues with banks, I have always been paying my bills in time and I had a good earning employment contract. Yet still, I felt really frustrated, as I left my home country to move a step back in my life quality standards.

Why do expats feel financially underserved?

While my career was growing in the UK, I managed to get employed by a small startup called ClearScore, which now is the biggest credit scoring and reporting company in the UK. Whilst being there I came across the term invisible or “thin file”, that got me intrigued to find out what it meant.

Retrospectively, when the banking employee had initially rejected me, the real reason was that the bank tried to analyse my credit profile only to find it was empty, and so decided that I wasn’t worth the risk.

Subsequently, this happened for every other rejection on my story, why? Nobody wanted to offer me a mobile contract due to the lack of historic utility repayments. Moreover, my utility bills were more expensive than expected for the same reason and the bank didn’t want to take any risk, let alone a credit card!

Nobody wanted to offer me a mobile contract due to the lack of historic repayments. Subsequently, my utility bills were also more expensive.

Gabriele Cacciola, Ocyan

Hello from Ocyan

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Ocyan London team + bits from Scotland

So based on these emotions and experience we created Ocyan. We are huge fans of the freedom of movement, and great believers that people should be able to move across countries while bringing their data with them. With our venture, we are aiming to make it possible to relocate to any new place and receive a fair and transparent treatment from the financial ecosystem. We aim to facilitate this vision by empowering people to access local providers and manage their own data in a clear and easy manner.

If you would like to reach out for more clarifications, or any related discussion or just share your experience with us just contact me here , and I’ll be looking forward to hearing from you.

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