SYT catches up with Will Christie, founder of yacht brokerage Christie Yachts, to find out what motivated him to set up his own firm, his predictions for the market in the coming years and how he believes Christie Yachts stands out from the crowd!
You were Head of Sales at a top industry company previously, why have you now chosen to set up your own brokerage?
After two decades in the industry I felt that I had the necessary credibility, experience, industry relationships and established client base to start out on my own. Many clients and industry colleagues had encouraged me to do this earlier in my career but various circumstances came into play that made now the right time to forge my own path. Timing is everything with such decisions. The current strength of the market and the way in which I predict yachting will only become more popular played a big part. I see a lot of opportunities for a focused, specialist outfit such as ours.What differentiates you and your company from the competition?
More than ever clients want a trusted advisor closely by their side representing their interests when they are purchasing, constructing, or selling a yacht. They expect this advice to add quantifiably to the process, rather than just being supplied information that they could get through a simple Google search themselves. Christie Yachts is a specialist in this area with two decades of experience, providing really focused, personal and expert advice.
For example, we aren’t a yacht management company trying to do yacht brokerage or a yacht brokerage trying to do yacht management - we will not be distracted by other services. Where we don’t offer a service, we will introduce clients to the very best fit for them in that area while clients will get the benefit of someone managing the entire process.
In yacht construction, it is also important to build up a team that will get the very best end-result for a client. That means putting together a team, with us at the heart coordinating everything, that has proper experience at the yard in question.
I believe that this bespoke approach will be a great benefit to clients who want to know they have the very best representation and advice, while not paying for services they simply don’t require.
Finally, we will be fully transparent about how we earn fees. Clients are very focused on this important matter in an industry where it is often not clear when and where the parties involved are making money. Photo: Bruno Buisson / SuperYacht TimesThe yacht market has had a very impressive rebound from the lows of early 2020, what do you see as the movement of the market in the coming months and years?
Covid-19 has changed the world forever. Not only do ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWI) understand the freedom and flexibility that yachting offers in the current environment but Covid-19 has propelled the way that people work by about 25 years. Previously yacht owners were actually a fair bit more senior in years than you might think. The reason being is that younger UHNWIs were stuck in their offices, busy building their businesses.
I had a lot of clients who until recently would only consider chartering a yacht as they said they only took a few weeks holiday every year but that they would consider it later in life when less busy. Now every UHNWI has been forced to work remotely and has experienced that it is totally possible. Owning a yacht has now become justifiable for them as they can spend extended times on board both working while enjoying the relaxing and comfortable benefits of being on their own yacht wherever and whenever they choose.
I have one client who flies in to join his yacht with his trading terminals - he is able to work while still getting to enjoy watersports at the start and end of the day and spending time with his family. As such, the market has now opened up to an increasing number of potential owners and I only see this trend continuing.Photo: Northrop & JohnsonDo you have any standout yacht sales in your years of experience?
I think every sale, especially when you act for a buyer, is special. It is incredibly enjoyable to work with a buyer setting out on a journey to find or build a yacht that meets their requirements and expectations knowing that they, their family and friends will make so many special memories on board.
Significant sales have included the stunning 91m Nahlin and the construction and subsequent sale of yachts such as the 82m Abeking & Rasmussen Kibo (now named Grace) and 57m Feadship Larisa (now named W).Photo: Giovanni RomeroIf I had to pick one standout one though, it would have to be the recent sale of the 50m Heesen Erica (now named Toute Sweet) which marks one of the first deals that I have done since starting Christie Yachts. Not only is she a very recognised and striking design by one of the leading Dutch shipyards, but we found the client a yacht in a market with almost no pedigree yachts available at present. The client was referred to us by someone I greatly admire and respect which was also a great compliment that they trusted us to look after this client. Through industry contacts we managed to track down this very special off-market opportunity and had the deal concluded within weeks of being introduced to the buyer. They are now very happy and satisfied owners. This deal in itself, within two months of establishing Christie Yachts, made the decision to go it alone feel truly worthwhile.Photo: Barry QuinceWhat is the most important trait that makes a successful yacht broker?
100% it is honesty. You have to tell it how it is to clients as they are coming to you for advice in an area where they may not have much experience. They expect you to be the expert adding quantifiable value to the process. It is so important to give honest advice so that clients’ expectations are realistically managed.
In the case of a buyer, this would include explaining the limitations of a yacht, its true market value, the ability to resell easily in the future, realistic rather than mythical operational budget and charter income as well as any short to medium term maintenance which may prove costly down the line.
For a seller, it would be explaining true market value to set the asking price at the right level both to attract interest and to attain the optimal price. I’ve seen so many yachts come to the market with ridiculous asking prices as the owners have been promised an unrealistic price by the broker in question just to secure the Central Agency. The yacht then ends up on the market for years while the owner endures ongoing running costs and depreciation.
As an industry we need to be honest to ensure that clients remain owners for years to come as they have had a good experience through receiving proper guidance.