Over the last few years there has been a notable shift towards more boutique, independent brokerage and management firms that work with fewer clients and aim to give a more bespoke service to owners. After running the brokerage division of Sunseeker London since 2009, Harry Bristow-Holmes has launched his own firm, Bristow-Holmes (BH), an independent brokerage offering that he hopes will bring a fresh approach to this side of the industry. The Superyacht Owner speaks exclusively with him to learn how he is attempting to break the brokerage mould.
“The yachting industry is a funny old business,” Bristow-Holmes says. “Many brokers doing the same things they did the year before and the year before that, many companies sticking to what they know and not taking risks, many clients following tradition.” Having worked in and around the superyacht industry in some capacity since he was 14, initially cleaning yachts on the Gold Coast in Australia and in Spain and eventually with Sunseeker as a broker (since 2007), he has watched the industry evolve and earlier this year, decided something new was needed.
Taking on the 25m to 50m market place, Bristow-Holmes’ eponymous new company will centre on offering a targeted brokerage service to a focused selection of clients, investing heavily in the marketing side of the business, while also building a network of preferred partners and experts to provide clients with advice on ownership issues across the spectrum.
Trust is key but Bristow-Holmes readily admits that the word ‘broker’ is one that comes with some negative connotations for many clients and owners today. “I can appreciate that many owners grow frustrated with the brokerage side of yacht ownership,” he says, suggesting that there are a number of brokers in the industry who spend too much time enjoying the lifestyle rather than working on improving the ownership experience for their clients, investigating global markets or in ways to introduce the industry to emerging ones. “That's one of the key reasons I wanted to found something new. We offer a bespoke service for or clients, where knowledge is key and being kept informed is paramount. There's nothing more frustrating than not being kept in the loop and feeling like your broker is not being honest with you.”
Bristow-Holmes says that where the larger brokerage houses might struggle to deliver more personalised service, by limiting the number of vessels BH represents at any one time, it is well-placed to keep clients fully informed as well as invest time and energy into a smaller number of quality listings rather than spreading our resources across too many yachts. When asked what he most wants to change about the brokerage model, Bristow-Holmes isn’t sure that the model actually needs to change as such.
“I don't personally believe the whole model needs to change,” he says. “But like a piece of computer software it needs to constantly evolve and innovate in order to entice the next round of yacht owners into our industry. Ultimately those that succeed in the industry will really listen to what their clients want and need.”