A term that has been widely adopted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic is the ‘new normal’. The ‘new normal’ has been used to describe a number of phenomena that have come to characterise our lives throughout this crisis, whether it be the inclusion of social distancing measures and personal protective equipment or the adaptation of new methods of working from home. While the protocols adopted to stymie the spread of the disease are undeniably new to our everyday lives, many of the technologies and working practices that have been adopted were already in widespread use, especially among the younger generations. Rather than seeing these newly adopted practices as temporary measures to be retracted once the world returns to ‘normal’, this time should be used to lay the foundations for a new professional paradigm.

“The industry is already looking beyond COVID-19 - deals are being done and enquiries are being made,” explains Adam Ramlugon, partner at Hannaford Turner. “Having dealt with the initial shock of lockdown, clients are looking beyond the pandemic and towards the future with optimism.”

“This unprecedented period of lockdown has required those in the legal profession, as well as individuals within all manner of sectors, to find new ways of completing tasks that were previously taken for granted. As an example, we have had to find new ways to witness documents when visiting a notary or inviting clients to our office has not been possible. Equally, we have had to find new ways of dealing with the various shipping registries. For many, these new systems are just a temporary amendment before the inevitable return to the status quo. But just because a particular document or procedure has always been dealt with in a particular way, does that mean it should continue to be so? If there was any benefit to be drawn from this situation, it is that we all have the opportunity to pause, reflect and evaluate the various ways in which we operate, both personally and professionally.”

In recent years, the environmental agenda has quite rightly become one of most pressing global issues and the superyacht industry, like most other industries, has began to question a variety of its practices. The saturated boat show market, for example, is being increasingly scrutinised for how sustainable its global copy and paste method really is. How viable is it for the same superyachts and exhibitors to travel the world engaging in what is for all intents and purposes the same show in a different location? Equally, how viable is it then for a client or their team to take a private jet in order to witness a document or attend a closing meeting when alternatives are now available? If the next generation of superyacht owners is truly concerned with the environment, then legal professionals and others should not be in such a rush to return to ‘normal’ without first considering what elements of that “normality” might be left in the past and what others might be changed for the better.

For a number of years now, the superyacht industry has been waxing lyrical about attracting the next generation of clients and professional talent. Now is a good time to put this into action by questioning whether hitherto unshakable market norms might be better left in the past and the industry changed for the better.

For a number of years now, the superyacht industry has been waxing lyrical about attracting the next generation of clients and professional talent. However, the market’s swift adoption of the term ‘new normal’ clearly signals how out of touch much of the industry is with the next generation. Those who have lauded the use of technological solutions and expressed surprise at the effectiveness of working from home have been living in the dark ages. The younger generations have long since expressed value in technology and professional autonomy, while the old guard viewed such solutions as inferior and with distrust.

“We are all used to the superyacht industry being how it has always been. What this period has proven globally is that one shouldn’t be too wedded to any particular custom,” continues Ramlugon. “The sale and purchase and construction work Hannaford Turner has handled during lockdown has all been carried out solely via phone and video conferencing platforms from home. Everything has gone just as well you might have expected it to if we had attended the office and travelled abroad for closing meetings in the usual way. When you think about it, there is no reason for this not to have been the case but pre-COVID-19 this way of working simply was not seriously contemplated. I am sure that some elements of it are here to stay. I personally look at all this as an opportunity for my Firm to adapt and develop in the interests of our clients both in terms of how we work and how we serve them.”

Social distancing and personal protective equipment protocols aside, much of the ‘new normal’ isn’t new at all; in fact, much of it was inevitable. Indeed, coronavirus was merely the spark that hastened the widespread adoption of the working environment that we now find ourselves in. Rather than speaking of the ‘new normal’, the market would do well to switch its focus and start considering ‘progress’. Instead of looking backwards and hoping for a return to normality, we should be looking forward and deciding which elements of this enforced adaptation are worth keeping and developing.


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