At this year's American Superyacht Forum, Luisa Kroll, wealth editor of Forbes spoke about the number of UHNWI in the US alone, and reported that "there are 442 billion American billionaires, so it's about almost a third of billionaires around the world ... based on my numbers, at least a fourth already own yachts, although as these guys are pretty secretive about keeping their ownership under wraps, perhaps it's more than half". Whether the potential is to get another three quarters or half of those who can afford a yacht into the market, we need to know whether we as an industry are managing clients expectations and investing in them for the long term.
"Luckily in the market, there are plenty of companies and professionals providing good services, it's just a matter of getting properly involved," shares Alberto Amico, founder of Amico & Co. It is because of this abundance of information that Amico believes "a new yacht owner should start asking the right questions and check all of the information" with other sources. While our business revolves around the wants and needs of owners, AJ Anderson, Managing Director of Wright Maritime Group feels it is "our business to understand what owners want and why; if they want to do something that in its original form is unachievable or simply a bad idea, then our job is to get them there in a different, achievable and smart way".
"I wish it were true [that we're investing in clients for the long term] but the mentality of our industry is to grab the money and run," Jim Eden, president of Worth Avenue Yachts tells us. "It comes all through the industry and we need to coddle our clients a little more. A lot of people forget that we are a service industry and nobody needs a yacht, so we need to guide the clients through their ownership experiences." Indeed, Mike Kelsey Jr, president of Palmer Johnson agrees. "One of the most important things to us is our after-sales care for clients. We have to manage the problems and make sure that if the clients feel anything arising, it is fixed quickly and easily."
As an industry, we need to ensure this level of client care is delivered in order to secure repeat clients. "Providing excellent service is the only way of securing future clients in my opinion" shares Fabrizio Scerch, sales deputy director megayachts at Azimut Benetti. "Sometimes, for those in the industry that are not our customers yet, we can attract their attention by offering a quality service." However, all is not lost, as Richard Lambert, M Class Director at Princess Yachts believes that "the industry has gotten a lot better at managing client's expectations and being very upfront about what costs are going to be involved and what they can expect". "I'm not saying it's perfect," he says, "but it has gotten a lot better and I think it's continuing to do so."
Although the need for greater transparency has been stressed for years, perhaps the message is finally getting across to the wider market that, should we hope to sustain ourselves and continue to grow as an industry, that is exactly what we need.