Jamie Edmiston is one of the most recognisable faces of the superyacht business - and it’s not only down to his trademark red hair. At the helm of the long-standing British brokerage firm Edmiston & Company since 2014, Jamie has been an instrumental figure in the world of superyachts for a number of years. Originally joining his father’s company in 2001, he quickly injected a much-needed burst of fresh, new thinking to the traditional brokerage sphere. That thinking resulted in an incredibly successful branding campaign for the Edmiston name - something which, at the time, was unheard of in superyacht brokerage. After all, the world was still new to the digital game and, if you can even imagine it now, Facebook was yet to be born. Looking to the future once again in an ever-evolving landscape, here we get Jamie’s insight into the past, present and future of superyacht brokerage.
Photo: Edmiston 1. Edmiston has played a defining role in the superyacht business since its establishment. When you were appointed CEO how did you ensure the company continued to play that leading role?
The yacht business has grown significantly in the last 20 years, and as part of that rapid expansion, several companies and individuals stand out as defining significant aspects of the business. In terms of brokerage, there are a handful of firms that stand out as innovators. I think it’s fair to say that Edmiston is one of those. In 2001 when I joined my father at the company, we launched the red Edmiston brand. This was one of our most important innovations. Branding was - and I think always will be - my first passion, and was relatively unheard of in superyacht brokerage at the time. Within the brokerage sector only one other company initially reacted, and even today there are probably only a few companies that have a notable brand identity.
The business has evolved. I’m very proud to say that Edmiston has remained one of the key players in the industry, and I am committed to ensuring we continue to be at the forefront and maintain a leadership role.
2. In 2011 you took a three-year hiatus, leading an investment in the luxury brand LINLEY. Can you see yourself working outside of the superyacht business again?
Definitely. But I’m not planning on leaving the yachting business any time soon. Firstly I am fortunate enough to have such an established position. Secondly, Edmiston is our family business and I cannot imagine leaving that. Of course, other things do interest me and if the opportunity presents itself I could very likely explore these interests… perhaps as an investor or in some kind of executive or non-executive role. As I said, branding is a particular area of interest for me. Running LINLEY was very rewarding and enjoyable, and a lot of the success of the business came from my connections within yachting. One of the great things that the yachting business affords you is the opportunity to meet and connect with people who have been successful in a wide range of things.
Photo: Tom van Oossanen / SuperYacht Times3. As well as the day-to-day running of the business, you’re also very much an active yacht broker. What are some of your most memorable sales?
As a company, Edmiston has been involved in quite a number of significant sales over the years. Just a couple that spring to mind includes the 115-metre Lürssen-built Pelorus, the 112.8-metre Bremer Vulkan-built Le Grand Bleu, and the 74.5-metre Blohm + Voss-built Enigma (now Zeus) which we’ve sold at least twice.
Personally, the sale of the 110-metre Lürssen project Darius (now Radiant) was quite memorable…it was the largest brokerage deal ever at that time. With similar lines to the original Dilbar (now Ona), she was undoubtedly influenced by Pelorus. The other sale that stands out is the 60-metre Benetti Andreas L. The owner is a close friend of mine and she has great sentimental meaning to him and his family, being named after his late father.
4. You travel a lot in your role, and a necessary part of the job is testing the product. Tell us: what makes the perfect yacht?
I have been fortunate enough to spend time onboard yachts over the years. Whilst the majority is business related, there have also been a handful of occasions that have been for pleasure. The design and innovative engineering side of yachting really interests me. A yacht has to be as technologically advanced as a warship but has to be as comfortable as a five-star hotel. A yacht is somewhere for barefoot living and is - undoubtedly - the best place to holiday as a family. And if you need to be working but still want to be with your family, a yacht provides this amazing opportunity to move from business to family time almost immediately.
The development of the digital world has certainly helped facilitate the timely delivery of accurate information to clients. This has been the greatest advantage I think. The advent of online video, high-resolution imagery and very immersive multimedia experiences allows people - some of whom have never chartered a yacht before - to get a great idea of what the experience on board a yacht can be. This in itself can only help grow the yacht business. Aside from media, I’m not convinced that digital developments such as Uber or Airbnb style platforms will work in yachting, I think the transactional elements are far more complicated than people perhaps recognise.
6. Change in the traditional world of yachting is slow. Will we see significant changes to ownership in the near future?
There is a lot of talk about new ownership models. I don’t really know how much the traditional models of ownership can or needs to change. In my experience, fractional ownership for large yachts is a challenging proposition. As yet no one has done it successfully. Possibly someone will make it successful at the lower end of the market for yachts up to 100 feet, but in my view, once you get to the larger yachts there are many obstacles and hurdles that just don’t make it compelling. A yacht is not a jet. A jet is a business tool that you use for a set period of time - maximum 14 hours - to get from A to B, and the successful operators have a large number of planes available that can be easily relocated geographically. A yacht is a location-based experience; a home away from home that takes time to position from one location to another. It’s a different proposition which makes these alternative models a challenge.
I am a businessman; therefore I support innovation and respect those who are prepared to invest their own money in new businesses within the yachting space. I think the models such as Ahoy Club and Yotha may work at the smaller end of the market - say from 40 to 75 feet - but for larger charters, the role of an experienced broker will always be key. I spoke to a client recently who told me he had been offered a yacht via an online broker for 10% less than we had offered it to him and his son had booked it to save some money. He told me that he will never do that again. He said that “the planning was a nightmare, no one was managing the itinerary and helping us with the planning, and when we had an issue with the yacht there was no one to call and help sort the problems. What should have been a relaxing holiday was the opposite.”
The key point to understand is this; yachting has a lot of moving parts, therefore it can be complicated, and when it is complicated you want an expert there to guide you and help you sort problems. That support is priceless; I would argue that it is false economy to do it on the cheap because it doesn’t always work out. Never underestimate the value of using a leading broker; you are buying their network, their relationships and their experience - much of which has been built up over many years. When you are trying to relax that is priceless.
8. What do you identify as some of the key areas for improvement in the brokerage industry?
As with any business, there are areas that could be improved, but equally, I don’t think this is a broken business. There are many examples of successful companies and individuals who do a fantastic job, both in terms of leadership and innovation. If you look at how the industry presents itself nowadays, versus 15 years ago, the developments and advancements have been significant, particularly in terms of marketing and getting the message of yachting out to new people around the world.
Organisations such as Sybass, LYBRA and events such as the Monaco Yacht Show, are continually pushing the yachting message and whilst there will always be new clients we want to attract, on the whole I think its been successful.
More and more people are discovering yachting; and once discovered it's pretty addictive. No holiday on earth compares to one on board a large yacht. Yes, it is expensive, but it delivers so much in terms of levels of service, privacy, comfort, security. You only need to look at social media to see how many more people are enjoying a holiday on board a yacht nowadays.
The fundamental role of the broker in any industry has not really changed, and I do not know how much it can change. A broker – in any industry - puts a deal together between two parties and takes all the stress in between and makes a deal happen. A broker acts as a shock absorber to make a deal happen. between the two involved parties.
In yachting, a good broker has the ability to make a deal happen – not just deliver messages between parties. They need to not only understand their subject, but also the people they are dealing with, right through the spectrum. There are plenty of examples in yachting where brokers with completely different styles of doing business are both successful.
Photo: Edmiston10. What is your advice for a successful career in the superyacht business?
We get a lot of CV’s and enquiries for roles in the yacht business, and where possible, I try and meet as many people as I can. Personally, I am less concerned with someone’s age; talent is what really counts. And whilst experience is important in yachting, it’s not the only defining point. Hard work, drive and intelligence will always play a key role in success; we have a number of young talented people at Edmiston who are considered to be amongst the best in the industry.
I tell those interested in getting involved in the brokerage business that it’s important to understand that yacht broking is the ‘disappointment business’. You can work for weeks or even months on a deal, only for it to collapse at the last moment. If you can learn to deal with that and accept that disappointment element, you are 50% there. Once you have reconciled that; the next attributes are hard work and commitment - you need to be prepared to work whenever you are awake. This is not a 9-5 business; the yacht business is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It’s a way of life as much as a job; and if you look around the industry, the relatively small group of brokers who are consistently successful are those who truly live it. And of course, the last key attribute is luck. Everyone needs some luck, but the harder you work, the luckier you become.
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The SuperYacht Times iQ 2018 Report
Did you know that in 2017....
- 180 new yachts over 30 metres were sold
- 149 new yachts over 30 metres were completed
- 443 yachts over 30 metres were under construction
- 30% of the yachts under construction were available for sale
- 20% of the yachts were owned by clients from the USA