For the past 50 years, Sarnia Yachts has been one of the most trusted names in yachting. Since its launch in 1971, what was originally a fiduciary only business has become the go-to company for owners, family offices and brokers across the UK and Europe seeking yacht ownership and operational services.
More than just a household name, the long-standing company has proven time and time again that it’s at the forefront of the industry – and now it has launched a fresh business model that’s set to make life even easier for its clients.
This year, Sarnia Yachts celebrates its 50th anniversary with an enhanced company structure. Made up of three pillars – Ownership, Management and Crew – this new, fully holistic model offers the modern-day yacht owner a seamless and flexible experience, with bespoke solutions to suit their individual requirements.
As the yachting industry has evolved and owning a yacht has become more complex, Sarnia Yachts has grown with its clients, some of whom have been with the business for 40 years. Drawing on half a century of industry expertise – not to mention the core team’s combined decades of experience – Sarnia Yachts has further developed its offering to ensure that its clients have the right arrangements and advice in place to meet their present and future ambitions, while adhering to the industry’s ever-changing rules and regulations. This is particularly important as we enter a post-pandemic world.
“Sarnia Yachts only offered what was badged entirely as an ownership service until 2008” says Tim Joyce, Group CEO, Sarnia Yachts. “Largely invisible underneath this ownership service, were a host of other services such as crew employment, yacht management and financial administration. The problem was these other services were not accessible to owners who did not require the ownership element. Post the management buyout in 2008, we wanted to capitalise on all the separate specialist skills in the business and make them both visible and accessible to owners, independently from the original ownership service.”
This began with crew management in 2010. “We have been managing crew under the dedicated yacht owning arrangement for 30+ years, but we quickly realised we needed a standalone service and a dedicated team of people to specialise in this area. The same process has recently happened with yacht management. We found ourselves, as a company, becoming more and more involved with the technicalities, so we have now set up a dedicated team and recruited specialists in their field. It’s been a natural evolution,” he says “but the irony is these are not entirely new services to Sarnia, more long-standing services, that have now been un-bundled so more visible and more accessible to owners wanting any single service or a combined service.
Sarnia Yachts’ decision to split its offering into three core pillars was made with the client in mind. Previously, clients signed up to the yacht ownership service as a singular package but now they can pick and choose the services they desire, working with the various teams to create a bespoke and flexible model that suits them.
“The world of yachting is becoming more and more complicated, with new regulations introduced constantly, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model anymore,” Tim says. “We’re not here to do it all, unless you want us to. We’re here to find out where we can help you and where you need more or less support. Each pillar is sustainable and an offering in its own right, although operational synergies exist when we start combining them.”
In the past couple of years, Sarnia Yachts has seen rapid growth, expanding from the original headquarters in Guernsey to three offices – with a second office in Malta, while the newest opening in Southampton is where the yacht management division is located.
The yacht management division, set up in late 2020 and managed by industry veteran Hans Bouman, was born out of the team’s observations and frustrations. “Previously, yacht managers were reporting directly to the ultimate beneficial owner, so we were completely left out of the loop, yet we had all of the responsibility and owners were telling us they were paying too much for the two services. We started to question, ‘How can we resolve this to satisfy the needs of the owners and ourselves as directors?’” says Bruce Maltwood, Director, Sarnia Yachts.
The solution was a totally holistic and transparent business model where teams across all three offices and pillars work closely together to ensure a seamless service. This collaborative approach, bettered by a newly rebuilt client management platform, lead to increased communication and enhanced efficiency, with a myriad of benefits for clients, particularly those full-service clients who enjoy full wraparound care.
“Whether we’re providing ownership, crewing or management, including insurance support and financial services, we’re all operating together,” Bruce says. “It’s early days but the clients are already beginning to reap the rewards of the new model. They particularly appreciate having one point of contact instead of needing to speak with a number of different people.”
As well as being more time efficient, this streamlined one-stop shop is more financially efficient, particularly when it comes to the elimination of duplication. “In a normal set up, the yacht manager will produce financial reporting for the owner but, as directors of a yacht owning vehicle, we are required to prepare annual financial statements, which also need to be audited in many cases. So, the owner is paying twice for the same thing, whereas we have one system which eliminates that duplication so that the yacht management real-time reporting is also used to produce the annual year end financials,” Bruce says.
Sarnia Yachts’ unique zero-commission model offers additional potential savings. “We’re proud that we are seen as disruptors in that we don’t take any commissions on any business we conduct for our clients,” he says. “A lot of other operators will have fingers in different pies, particularly when it comes to insurance, but we present the true price to our clients.”
The company’s corporate-style background is both a curse and a blessing. On the one hand, some people who know Sarnia Yachts from its earliest incarnation may think of it simply as a business providing owners with a company as a means to get a flag registration. “I think we were one of the first companies doing that in the marine sector back in 1971,” says Tim, explaining what put the business on the map. “Now, we enjoy explaining to people that we’re so much more than that and it makes sense to owners and advisors when we explain how we are working.”
On the other hand, the company’s history can be viewed as a major advantage. Firstly, Sarnia Yachts has been through the rigours of Guernsey’s regulatory framework over the past 50 years, so it’s proven itself to be robust and trustworthy. Secondly, having corporate knowledge and being able to bring that to other areas of the business adds value all round, Tim explains. “We operate the same procedures in our yacht management business as we would do in our regulated side of the business and apply the same values and policies (from transparency to four eyes over signatories) across the whole business.”
But where the business is not traditionally corporate is when it comes to talent. There’s a lot of specialist knowledge under one roof, with every employee bringing on board a huge amount of expertise, and Sarnia Yachts has made great strides to ensure that every employee has a voice.
“There’s no one person who says: ‘I’ve done this on my own,’” says Tim. “Every part of the jigsaw comes together to deliver an optimum solution for each client, and the client is very happy because, particularly from an insurance aspect, we’ve sorted out problems they didn’t know they even had. It’s a team effort. There’s no strict hierarchy and we foster an environment that is conducive to open conversation. People enjoy themselves at work and the important part they play in designing the best solution for each client.”
Teamwork helped hugely during the Covid-19 pandemic, when people worked remotely for the best part of a year – some of the newest recruits in Southampton only met each other in the flesh for the first time in spring 2021. However, against all odds, Sarnia Yachts came out of the crisis stronger, with 12 more staff than before the pandemic, alongside the enhanced service offerings.
“We’ve taken advantage of this time to design and develop the yacht management offering and join these three pillars together. Now we are ready to shoot the starting pistol! Some new and existing clients have already taking the full suite of services and once we start talking about the synergies that come with wearing multiple hats, the client gets it as it’s often the approach they have taken in their own business” says Tim. “The enthusiasm across the business is incredible across all offices.” Bruce adds: “Last year was a development phase and now it’s great to go public and launch the platform we’ve put together. We’re all extremely excited to introduce the new Sarnia Yachts to our existing and future clients.”