Afex going down the tubes

Loyal readers from a long time ago will recall that although I am now pretty enthusiastic about using Transferwise (now renamed “Wise”) for money transfers, before I discovered them my service provider of choice was Afex.  Afex was my service provider of choice because it was less bad than Travelex/Rausch which in turn was less bad than Western Union.  

But even though Transferwise turned out to be better than Afex in almost every way, I found I had to maintain our account at Afex for two reasons:

  • there are a few places where we were unable to send money with Transferwise (for example to businesses in Brazil) and Afex was able to do it;  and
  • there are a few countries where the sender might be located and they cannot send USD (US dollars) to us at our Transferwise bank details, but they can send USD to us at our Afex bank details.  One example is Lithuania and another example is the Cayman Islands.

But now it looks like Afex is going down the tubes, as I will detail. 

I don’t mean that if you have money on deposit with Afex, that the money will disappear.  Nothing like that.  

But Afex got purchased by some company I never heard of called “Corpay”.  And here are some of the things that apparently are going to happen to each customer of Afex as they get migrated into Corpay.

First, as far as I can tell they have in mind changing everything about the “bank details” that someone in a foreign country might use to send money to you (the Corpay customer).  So for example if we were to put up with this, we at OPLF would have to tell all of the foreign clients and foreign patent firms who have been sending money to us through Afex not to use the bank details that they have been using for all these years.  Now they have to discard that saved beneficiary information and start all over again with new bank details.  There is of course every opportunity for somebody at the foreign client or foreign patent firm to type a digit wrong and for money to go astray and get wired into somebody else’s bank account or something.  The thing is, if I am to suffer through this, I might as well change completely what service provider I use for incoming bank wires for these foreign firms (the ones who are located in places where they can’t send money to us through Transferwise).  

Second, as an Afex user I have this big fat address book of beneficiaries, meaning foreign firms and such that I have sent money to many times through Afex.  This includes sending money to my own firm’s ordinary bank operating account from time to time.  But various vaguely worded emails from Corpay talk about how I might or might not need to “update” or “add to” various beneficiaries in various ways, because the anti-money-laundering requirements that Corpay has to comply with are apparently much more demanding than the requirements that were good enough at Afex.  The impression that one gets is that Afex’s customers by and large were not money launderers and so they did not get in trouble with the authorities very often, but that maybe Corpay’s customers raised more red flags more often in the eyes of the various authorities.  And so Corpay has to demand much more detail from every one of its customers about every one of their beneficiaries, to somehow satisfy the various authorities, something like that.  How do I know whether any of my beneficiaries need “updating”, I might wonder?  The various emails say that to find this out, I should “contact my relationship manager” who will go through my beneficiaries one by one and let me know which ones are somehow not well enough documented or whatever.

Except, guess what, the woman who was our firm’s relationship manager when we opened our account, the woman who used to answer the phone whenever we called … she’s gone from Afex now after two or so years of serving us very well.  As far as I can see we do not now have a new Relationship Manager assigned to us.  The last time I called with a question, the call went to some pool and somebody tried to answer my question but he said he was not my Relationship Manager and he could not say who my Relationship Manager is or if we have one.

So I suppose what would happen next is I would try to send money to that patent firm in Brazil that I mentioned, and Corpay would deduct the money from our balance, and then maybe a few days later Corpay would spring it on me that they don’t know enough about the patent firm in Brazil so they are putting a hold on the wire transfer.  Never mind that we have sent money to this patent firm in Brazil half a dozen times in the past two years through Afex, that’s not good enough.  And then we lose some substantive rights for a client or incur a late fee in the Brazilian patent office or something.

This is the sort of thing computers are supposed to be good at.  Why don’t they simply arrange for their computer to carry out a validation of each of my beneficiaries one by one, and email me a simple report listing which beneficiaries if any are lacking needed information, and if so, exactly what information is felt to be needed?  But no.  That would be too easy.

Third.  Back when the company I was recommending was Afex, one of the advantages of Afex was that if the foreign patent firm had an Afex account then we could send money to them through Afex and it would be instant and free of charge to us or them.  And if they wanted to send money to us through Afex it would be instant and free of charge to us or them.   Transfers from one Afex customer to another Afex customer were free and instant.  Well, an email came out today (September 30) from Corpay that mentions sort of in passing that these instant and free transfers from one Afex customer to another will cease to be possible after … get this … tomorrow, October 1.

Yes, one day of warning for this free and instant transfer feature being turned off.

Fourth.  Part of what we are required to do, when we give instructions to a foreign patent firm or foreign client for sending money to us through Afex, is provide to them our “Afex account number”.  They then must mention this in the OBI (the comment field) in their bank wire to us.  The Afex people look in the comment field to see our account number and then the Afex people use it to figure out that the money is supposed to get credited to us instead of being credited to some other Afex customer.  (If the foreign firm forgets to mention our Afex account number in the comment field, then we never receive the money.)  Anyway, it turns out that part of the transition to Corpay involves the Corpay company assigning a new six-digit Corpay account number to us, and discarding our old eight-character Afex account number.  All of a sudden it is this new six-digit number that our foreign colleagues would have to mention in the comment field of their bank wires so that the money could reach us.

This requirement that our foreign colleagues start mentioning the new six-digit number takes effect, if I got it right, this coming Monday, October 4.  Oh, so you might wonder, when exactly will Afex/Corpay inform us what our new six-digit account number is?  The answer is … wait for it … this coming Monday, October 4.  

Oh and the next thing after that is that apparently the six-digit Corpay account number is only temporary, and they explain that after some unspecified period of time, Corpay will assign a still different eight-digit numerical Corpay account number to us and will discard the temporary six-digit Corpay account number.  I am not making this up.  At which point we would have to communicate that additional change to our foreign colleagues.

Why this nuts business of revealing the new account number on the exact same day that the new account number is required to be used by foreign colleagues to send us money?  Why not provide, say, a week or two of advance notice as to what the new account number is going to be?

Fifth.  The way it is now, if I need to research some past Afex bank wire, I can click around in the online platform to get whatever I need.  I can search by date, search by amount, search by origin, search by destination.  I can export a CSV file containing whatever information I need and search the spreadsheet.  Guess what?  Next Monday October, when I log in at the online platform, all of the historical information will be … gone.  Not downloadable any more.  Not searchable any more.  Just … gone.  

Oh, but not to worry.  One of the emails cheerfully explains that if I ever need a search done of past transactions, I will be able to contact my Relationship Manager and he or she will take down my search information and do the search and get back to me later with the results of the search.  (I assume this is only possible during business hours.)  Except, you know where I am going with this, our firm stopped having a Relationship Manager about six months ago when our very helpful and loyal Relationship Manager jumped the sinking ship.  And no new Relationship Manager has been assigned to our account.

I went back and looked at the email from the president of the company from a few weeks ago, the one that said how great it is going to be with the new company and everything, and the little bitty few things that we customers would need to do as part of this transition, like changing everything about our bank details for incoming wires and our beneficiary details for outgoing wires and our account numbers and what we have to tell our foreign colleagues so that the bank wires they send to us will not get lost, and yes all of our transaction history information will get discarded, but not to worry, your Relationship Manager will guide you through the process and will make it a smooth and seamless transition.  And I just now noticed the email has a place that says something like in the unlikely event that you don’t happen to have a Relationship Manager, just “click here” and we will assign a Relationship Manager to you and he or she will get in touch with you right away.

Why should I need to “click here” at all?  This is the sort of thing computers are supposed to be good at.  Why not have the computer run through the customer list, one by one, and if some customer has lost their Relationship Manager, I know this is a stretch, but how about assigning a new Relationship Manager to that customer?  And maybe drop an email to the customer, letting them know who it is?  And maybe drop an email to the Relationship Manager directing them to get in touch with their new client?  But no.

Oh so I decided I might as well try out the “click here” thing.  It brings me to a page where I am invited to fill in my name and phone number and email address.  Oddly, this page does not have a place where I am invited provide my existing Afex account number.  But it says somebody will get back to me Real Soon Now.  Whoever it is, I guess they will have to go on a sort of treasure hunt, clicking around in their system to try to figure out which Afex customer I happen to be.

(Update:  Several hours have now passed since I did the “click here” and guess what?  Nobody has gotten back to me yet.  Further update, click here, eight days have passed and still nobody has gotten back to me.)

click to enlarge

Sixth.  There is an FAQ at the web site of Afex that supposedly explains how this forced migration to Corpay is going to work.  Down toward the end, it says “do you have more questions?  Please call your Relationship Manager or post your question here.”  If you click on “post your question here” it brings up a page where you can type in your question and then click “submit”.   If you click “submit”, you reach a new page branded “sugar market” that says “Oops!  Looks like this page no longer exists …” and then says “404 PAGE NOT FOUND”.  I am not making this up.  You can see a screen shot at right.  Does this Corpay company not have anyone whose job it is to actually test the links on these web pages, to make sure they work?

(Update:  eight days later, the “post your question here” form still brings the customer to a new page branded “sugar market” like what you see in the screen shot.)

So anyway I am sort of half-heartedly trying to figure out what the exit path might be from Afex.  

Are you an Afex user?  Do you have plans to actually comply with all of the things that Corpay has in mind that you will have to do so that you can continue to receive services from Corpay that are sort of like the services that you used to receive from Afex?  Please post a comment below.

5 Replies to “Afex going down the tubes”

    1. Yes, that’s true. It is a bit unstable at times, and converting it to and from other more stable currencies is an activity with non-negligible transaction costs and delays. But what you said is certainly true.

  1. I’ve been using Afex for a long time and always loved the $5.00 foreign currency transfers and $10.00 domestic. I saw today that everything is $16.00 and as you mention in this blog they are no longer instant. Most of my beneficiary information was automatically switched over so that wasn’t bad, although I had to go in and update a few before I could send money. Overall I’m really not liking it and the customer service has gone down the tubes. I’m looking to switch, but every service I look at has issues – Wise doesn’t send to certain countries, OFX only allows you to send foreign currency – what about my associates who bill me in USD? Overall the switch from Afex to Corpay or whatever they are now is terrible. I expect they’ll lose a lot of customers.

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