Clive Jackson is the founder and CEO of Victor, an innovative aviation charter platform.
Who benefits from opaqueness? Fundamentally, opaqueness benefits intermediaries, it disadvantages the consumer and it disadvantages the owner of the asset. The superyacht industry is a mirror image of what I’ve observed in the private jet industry, and I have had a number of the superyacht industry’s top brokerage firms contact me to try to understand what it is we do and how, in the future, it may be applicable to the superyacht industry.
It boils down to the same issues; to stay in business, industry intermediaries want to keep the buyer at an arm’s length from the supplier. That way the intermediary has the ability to maximise profit margins because of the level of opaqueness. Opaqueness comes in two forms: supply and pricing.
If you, the customer, are not aware of what’s available, then it is easy enough for the intermediary to set the price. You can get five quotes, but you have already committed to holidaying at a given time – today’s ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) are cash rich and time poor, that is no secret. If you are told the supply is low, do you really want to risk losing the opportunity? Supply is a quantum of context and choice, and without the necessary transparency, your ability to make educated decisions is mitigated.
From the perspective of the intermediary, with the information at hand, once you have a consumer committed to spending a certain amount, is any deal made further down the line positively reflected in the price paid? My experience in the aviation industry tells me that the control of information translates into the control of pricing, and fair market value is rarely passed on to the consumer.
Transparency should not be an idealised concept – it should be the bedrock of business in so far as it puts the customer first. In a commission-only space, it is perfectly clear to see who benefits from opacity; inflated margins perpetuate the business behaviour of the people charging them.
Transparency should not be an idealised concept – it should be the bedrock of business in so far as it puts the customer first
An aversion to transparency is an aversion to technology. The superyacht industry, much like the aviation industry, has traditionally had an aversion to disruptive technology. Technology brings with it in an inherent expectation of accuracy and empowerment from the consumer. Aside from the fake news phenomenon disseminated recently by those who would seek to mislead, for the most part, as consumers, we trust what is presented to us. Having greater control is prerequisite for satisfied consumption and happy customers, and transparency provides this.
Opacity is the act of a self-serving market closing ranks to protect itself from progress. To assume that a market’s structures are adequate simply because it has functioned up to a point is to do the consumer – in the luxury-services market, some of the world’s most discerning individuals – a huge disservice. UHNWIs know when the wool is being pulled over their eyes; however, they are in the fortunate position that any time spent worrying about being over-charged for a vacation is better spent conducting their everyday affairs, which more than covers the excess they’ve paid on a charter.
When I created Victor, it was born from the frustrations I experienced as a customer chartering private jets. The industry was entirely geared towards servicing those working within it rather than being all that customer-centric. Since launching nearly six years ago, Victor has disrupted through a fairly unique mix of transparency, hi-tech and high-touch 24/7 customer support. There is no denying that the level of servicing and hospitality in the superyacht industry is outstanding, but that’s not to say more can’t be done to ensure the customer is put first. Handing control to the customer is even more essential when UHNWIs are the end user – and more essential than it is around many forms of everyday buying and selling. Transparency and customer control lead to satisfaction, and satisfaction breeds business. Perhaps it is time to be more open?
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