Azimo provides a simple and convenient platform for low-value transfers but is marred by a lack of phone support and sluggish customer service.
- Simple user interface
- Large selection of recipient currencies
- Cash pick-ups and social platform payments
- Spot transfers only
- No phone support
- Sluggish customer service
- Service only available for residents of the UK and greater EU
With the explosion of the mobile internet in the last decade, Azimo has entered the market to assist millions of new smartphone users with their mobile payments. Focusing solely on those living in the United Kingdom and Europe, the company is trying to reduce the costs for its customers working hard to send money to their friends and family abroad.
Azimo, a name inspired by the Swahili word for “help”, has developed a sleek desktop platform and mobile app, with the intention of making online payments safe and simpler than traditional banking services. And, while the company markets itself as being 80% cheaper than its competitors, behind closed doors, they know that while customers may come for the price, they’ll stay for the experience.
With this laser-like focus, thousands of satisfied customers, and a banking network covering over 195 countries, Azimo could be onto something. To learn more about their capability, and to see if their service is right for you, read on for my in-depth review of Azimo.
Head office details
Company history and founding story
Azimo was co-founded by Michael Kent, Marta Krupinska, Ricky Knox and Marek Wawro in late 2012. Marta and Marek have since left the company to pursue other projects, leaving only Michael and Ricky from the original founding team. Michael, who is CEO, has been joined by Jakob Wrulich as Chief Financial Officer and Richard Ambrose as Chief Operating Officer. Both bring considerable experience to their current roles, with Jakob coming from corporate finance background at Deloitte, and Richard having spent over a decade in senior positions at PayPal and eBay.
As for Michael, it would hard to think of a better-qualified person to lead a payments company. It is, in fact, his second business in this space, after having originally founded Small World Financial Services in 2005, which he personally grew from inception to be one Europe’s largest independent money transfer companies.
Azimo is headquartered in London, United Kingdom, with customer service offices in Kraków, Poland. The company has also indicated its intentions of opening an office in Hong Kong and Ireland; the latter to assist with facilitating European business in the aftermath of Brexit. To date, Azimo has raised approximately $46m in 4 rounds of funding, and at last count had 100 employees.
Supported countries and transfer limits
Azimo focuses on servicing customers located in the United Kingdom and Europe, who are sending money to destinations outside of this region. It currently accepts payments from a total of 24 countries – including the United Kingdom and the Eurozone, as well as Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Switzerland.
Once Azimo has received payment from its European based customer, it is able to exchange these funds into any one of over 60 currencies, and deliver this payment to any individual or business in Europe, Africa, the Americas, Asia, or the Pacific. Through its network of banking partners, Azimo has a reach of over 195 destination countries, a list of which can be found on their website.
Azimo does set minimum and maximum values for payments, the amount of which depends on the destination country. Many countries throughout the globe carry a £10 minimum transfer, but for some, this will be higher. For example, in my own case, transfers to Australia are subject to a minimum payment of £200.
Maximum values can also vary. While many regions will only be permitted a maximum payment of a few thousand dollars, some will be allowed much more. In the Australian example, once again, the maximum transfer value is £250,000. These larger transfer values, reserved for popular currency pairings, typically require payment by bank transfer or Swift. Smaller payments, on the other hand, can often be made with debit or credit card, but are limited to a maximum of £3,000.
Exchange rates and fees
Before committing to using a currency transfer service, it’s important to understand its business model. Put simply, a company like Azimo typically generates revenue in two ways. Firstly, it may charge a transaction fee for executing each transfer. Secondly, it may also take a margin on the exchange rate provided to its customers, also known as the “spread”; which is the difference between the exchange rate of the wholesale market (i.e. the interbank rate), and the exchange rate offered to the customer.
When comparing the pricing of Azimo against traditional banks, the company fares pretty well. Banks typically charge a large transaction fee and a 5% margin on the total value of the transfer. Azimo, on the other hand, only charges a fee of between £1–10, and averages a typical margin of anywhere between 1–3% of the total value transferred. If you make payment with a credit card, you’ll be hit with another 2.99% surcharge, but even so, this is obviously a much better result. For a typical person using a bank, the benefits of using Azimo are clear.
When comparing Azimo to other specialised currency transfer services, it performs slightly less well. Currency services such as TransferWise and CurrencyFair don’t take a margin on the value of the transfer, and rather they provide their customers with the mid-market rate. Instead, they charge a larger transaction fee upfront, saving their customers even more. Unfortunately, these alternatives can’t always send funds to all corners of the globe, which is one of Azimo’s primary strengths.
Here is how Azimo compares against its competitors when transferring Euro (EUR) into Australian Dollars (AUD):
|wdt_ID||Service||€ 1,000||€ 10,000||€ 100,000||Ave. cost||Review|
|1||Mid-market rate||1,590||15,900||159,000||0.00 %|
|2||Typical bank||1,485||15,080||151,025||5.58 %|
|4||TransferWise||1,576||15,777||157,950||0.76 %||Read review|
|5||CurrencyFair||1,577||15,813||158,166||0.62 %||Read review|
As you can see, there is certainly some benefit to using Azimo. With its ability to provide flexible payment arrangements into hundreds of countries, it does provide good value, but may not always be the cheapest option. In addition, it should be noted that any transfer conducted via Swift will likely incur hidden charges by correspondent banks; the amount depending on the amount of the transfer and the recipient country. It is also worth mentioning that Australia is probably not one of the company’s key markets, rather it appears to focus on customers transferring to parts of Eastern Europe, Africa, South America and East Asia.
For what Azimo lacks in diversity of originating currencies, it makes up for with the speed of its transactions; particularly for those which are smaller and paid by debit or credit card. In these instances, a typical transfer will take under an hour or two, which is useful for urgent payments and is much faster than many competing services.
For larger amounts, or those facilitated by bank transfer or Sofort, you will need to take into account the time required for the funds to move from the originating account to Azimo’s, and from Azimo’s banking partner’s account to the final recipient. In these instances, a typical Sofort transfer can be completed in 24 hours, while a bank transfer should take between 1–3 working days.
What are the key features of Azimo’s online platform? Let’s take a look at the various payment services offered by the company.
Spot contract. A spot contract consists of a single payment from one currency to another at the currently available exchange rate. If you need to send money right away, simply login to the Azimo website or app, and with a couple of clicks, a transfer can be arranged. Unfortunately, at this stage, this is the only type of payment that Azimo can facilitate. As a result, anything resembling the more advanced features offered by other currency transfer services, such as scheduled payments or conditional orders, are not possible.
Cash pickup. Azimo allows its customers to send money directly to a recipient’s mobile phone number, which is becoming more and more popular in developing regions. In this spirit, the company has established relationships with cash pick-up locations in over 50 countries, providing a much-needed source of flexibility into areas of the world with limited banking infrastructure.
Azimo employs staff members from over 21 countries, who in aggregate, speak over 18 separate languages. This is reflected in their customer service, which offers online chat support in English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and Italian, through the Azimo website. Alternatively, support is also available via email.
Unfortunately, direct phone support is not offered by Azimo. This is certainly not ideal, and I can see it providing a barrier to sign up, particularly if you are not completely comfortable in relying solely on messaging support. In my own experience, I found the lack of phone support completely frustrating, as I ran into issues with my transaction.
Specifically, it was not clear to me why there was a deduction from my payment, and I really just wanted to speak with someone over the phone about it. Instead, I was limited to Azimo’s email and chat support, which I found inadequate. While the customer support staff were friendly enough, it would take up to 3 or 4 days to receive a response to each correspondence, which in my opinion is unacceptable for a financial services company catering to the retail market
Security and regulation
Is Azimo safe? Let’s take a look at the various initiatives adopted by the company to ensure the security of its customers.
Government regulation. As Azimo is headquartered in the United Kingdom, the company is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and is licensed as an Electronic Money Institution under reference 900220.
Customer funds held in trust. In accordance with the standards imposed by government regulators, the funds of Azimo’s customers are held in segregated accounts and are therefore kept completely separate from the company’s own operating accounts. This ensures the security of customer funds, should Azimo encounter financial difficulty.
Website security. The Azimo website is protected with TLS encryption, which prevents sensitive data from being intercepted during your visit. You can confirm that this is in place by recognising a green padlock next to the website’s URL on your browser. Additionally, Azimo’s website and mobile app use MasterCard SecureCode and Verified by Visa systems to ensure only valid orders are processed.
Can you trust Azimo? Let’s take a look at look at the company’s reputation.
Trustpilot. As of publication, Azimo has received 14,354 reviews on Trustpilot with an average rating of 4 out of 5 stars; representing a positive experience in 91 percent of interactions with its customers. Here are some of my observations on the feedback posted:
- Quick, same-day payments
- Low transfer fees
- Satisfied customers sending to African nations
- Lack of phone support
- Poor customer service
- Unexpected delays with some transfers
Social media. Upon viewing the Twitter and Facebook feed of Azimo, we can see a range of varied interactions between the company’s customer service staff and its customers. A large portion of the discussions surround complaints of inconsistent service. It is hard to tell whether the complaints are adequately justified or not; however, what we do see is prompt responses from the support staff, asking for payment reference numbers, to get to the bottom of the issue.
Mainstream media. As for the mainstream media, their reporting on Azimo has generally been positive and provides the company with a handful of vanity pieces, many of which highlighting the advantage of money transfer apps over traditional banking services.
“The future of money transfers.” CNN
“An explosion of start-ups is changing finance for the better.” The Economist
“Azimo: One of the top 10 money saving apps.“ The Guardian
Design. The Azimo website has been designed thoughtfully, with special attention being paid to user experience and simplicity. It is available in 9 languages; English, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese, and Romanian. In addition to its online platform, Azimo has also developed mobile apps for both Apple and Android devices.
Registration process. The registration process is relatively straight-forward and consists of entering your first and last name, along with an email address and password. Alternatively, you can sign up with your Facebook or Google accounts. The entire process takes around 5 minutes.
Identification. Before you are able to commence your first transfer, you need to provide proof of identification so Azimo can verify your account. Two documents are required; one proving your identity, such as a passport or drivers licence, and one proving your address, such as a bank or utility statement.
How does Azimo work?
To familiarise you with the Azimo service, I’ll take you through a transaction I completed with them recently. If you need some guidance in navigating your own account, you can follow along.
Step 1. Visit azimo.com and log in. Once you have entered the Azimo website, you are greeted with a relatively minimal interface. To begin a transaction and add your first recipient, click Get Started.
Step 2. Select the country of your recipient and the currency denomination of their account. You will also need to select the method in which your funds will be delivered to your recipient. In my example, only Swift is available, however, depending on your own recipient country you may have other options such as bank deposit or cash pick-up.
You can then add the specific information of your intended recipient, including their bank details if that is the method you have chosen. If instead, you choose to send money to a phone number, Azimo will not take responsibility for lost funds due to any errors on your part – so make sure to double-check all information before confirming your request!
Step 3. To formalise the exchange rate of your quote, select either the value of the originating currency or the amount you would like to be transferred to the recipient in their denominated currency. I am not aware that the exchange rate is dynamic in any way, therefore the amount of your transfer will not have any effect on the offered rate.
If you wish to pay by debit or credit card, this is the fastest method of transferring funds to Azimo. Other payment methods can also be selected, including Sofort and bank deposit. I chose to proceed with bank deposit.
Once you are sure you want to confirm and proceed with the transaction, click Send Money.
Step 4. Once your transaction is confirmed, you are provided with instructions to proceed with your part of the payment. Before Azimo can complete the transfer, you will first need to send your funds to their local bank account.
Step 5. Once your funds have been received by Azimo in their local account, they will finalise the transfer to your recipient. You can track your transfer online or with their mobile app. Additionally, throughout the process, you will be provided with email updates as the payment moves within the system.
All done! Finally, once the transfer has been completed, you will receive an email confirming that payment will soon be reflected in your recipient’s account.
In my experience, the Azimo online platform was simple to use and I was satisfied with the instructions provided to me along the way. My funds arrived in 1 working day which is impressive, however, as I mentioned earlier, I ran into an issue with my transaction. Specifically, my transfer arrived $25 short of what was promised to me by Azimo. Upon querying this discrepancy with their customer service team, I was advised that as my transfer was conducted through Swift, there were fees charged by correspondent banks in the Swift system. The customer service member that I exchanged messages with said that these fees can vary and cannot be estimated in advance.
While this may be the case, I think it would be reasonable to disclose this important detail, as best as possible, in the Azimo platform. While they do make a short disclosure – “banks may charge to receive these payments” – neither my sending bank or receiving bank made this charge. In addition to the service not meeting my expectations, the shortcoming was compounded by sluggish customer service and lack of phone support, making my experience a disappointing one, overall.
Conclusion and final thoughts
On its face, Azimo provides a relatively straight-forward service, allowing quick and simple payments from the United Kingdom and Europe to almost anywhere else in the world. The company focuses on usability and simplicity, rather than overwhelming its users with complex functionality. In this regard, its greatest strength may also be its greatest weakness. While it is certainly a clean interface, particularly on mobile, there is little additional functionality for the more experienced user.
While Azimo may function well for many of its customers, the service suffers from poor customer service. The lack of phone support means that any issues encountered are likely to increase your frustrations, rather than provide you with relief. I can’t help but suggest that their decision operate a lean customer service team, may end up impacting their reputation in the long run.
If you have any questions, queries or feedback, let me know in the comments below.