Camper & Nicholson's has long been synonymous with the pedigree of old school style, a familiar brand with a face you can trust. But yacht brokerage is notoriusly competitive and changes in technology and patterns of wealth are keeping the big players on their toes.
A natural innovator with a solid background in luxury markets, CEO Paolo Casani is steering a steady course with one eye firmly on the Asian market. We met up with Paolo to find out more.
OnboardOnline: Your early career was in high end fashion working with leading designers such as Armani, Valentino and Calvin Klein – after 20 years in that sector, how did you transition into yachting?
Paolo Casani: After working with luxury fashion brands for over two decades, an opportunity presented for me to apply my knowledge and expertise at Azimut Yachts. While I was there I pioneered the Yachtique Division before becoming CEO of both Azimut Yachts and Nautor Holding.
OO: Camper & Nicholsons is a full service brokerage but, with your particular background do you have a special interest in C&N's roots in design and construction?
PC: Yes, and Camper & Nicholsons is synonymous with the design and build of the world’s most acclaimed and groundbreaking yachts - we've now been involved in the construction of over 2,400 yachts since 1782! With this heritage, our brokers pride themselves on having expert knowledge of new construction and work closely with yacht builders, designers, naval architects, captains and suppliers, enabling them to advise owners and oversee the entire process.
The new build market is now coming back after some years of slow down. We forecast growth of around 17% over the next five years and we want to be the market leader in this upturn.
OO: As part of its strategic growth plans, C&N accepted investment from Fincantieri in May 2015 and earlier this year you announced a joint venture with Fincantieri refit and repair yards. What are the benefits to each company from this alliance?
PC: As well as having established relationships with shipyards all over the world, Camper & Nicholsons has direct access to three dedicated Fincantieri shipyards. Should they be suitable for a client’s refit then our brokers can call upon their expertise for a range of refit services across yards in Trieste, Muggiano and Genoa.
Essentially Camper & Nicholsons Refit & Repair division exists to advise and oversee refits and repairs all over the world, choosing the most suitable yard for the particular yacht and owner. Working with top builders, designers and naval architects enables us to advise on scope, materials and design to ensure owners get exactly what they want, at the most competitive price.
OO: What are the current challenges for a leading brokerage in terms of maintaining or growing market share?
PC: There are currently 5,000 superyachts in the world, and by 2020 there will probably be over 6,000. However, I believe the medium and smaller yacht market will suffer, and Camper & Nicholsons needs to ensure that owners of smaller vessels achieve their ambitions alongside owners of larger yachts.
OO: How is digital technology changing the way you do business in terms of intelligence and marketing?
PC: Yacht buyers and sellers rely on expert advice when assessing options of different ages and technical condition, so sound valuations and market intelligence are critical to the success of any transaction. Fortunately we have a dedicated in-house team, so our brokers have access to the most comprehensive market intelligence in the business. We support this with a wide range of marketing inititatives which increasingly involves digital channels.
OO: Increasingly the superyacht industry markets itself in terms of experience and the luxury lifestyle, particularly in emerging markets where exposure via other luxury brands is a key driver. This approach has underpinned C&N’s strategy for many years, but how have things evolved to resonate with a younger generation of potential yacht owners?
PC: There is a new generation of clients who we want to attract to Camper & Nicholsons and, to do this, I believe we need to expand our portfolio of services and differentiate ourselves from our competitors. We have already launched two new services - Insurance and Capital - so we can now offer existing and new clients a full range of financial services so they can get the best from their investment and enjoy the yachting experience to the fullest.
We have also formed a number of strategic partnerships with other luxury brands and host high profile events. This enhances our own brand image bringing additional benefits to our existing clients, while allowing us to introduce our services to a new audience.
OO: Continuing this theme in the context of the Chinese market, Camper & Nicholsons recently announced significant investment from Lai Sun Development Company Ltd., which has an established portfolio in luxury hospitality, property development and media throughout the Asia Pacific region. How did this opportunity come about and how will it shape your activities in Asia?
PC: With its background in luxury markets, the Lai Sun Development Company recognized the potential of the Camper & Nicholsons brand globally, and specifically throughout Asia. Lai Sun are also best placed to help us serve this market as we learn and adapt to satisfy significantly different tastes.
Interestingly, The State of Wealth, Luxury and Yachting (2016), published by Wealth-X and Camper & Nicholsons, identified the countries with the greatest number of UHNW superyacht owners as the USA, UK, Italy, Australia and Russia. However, when you consider UHNW individuals without yachts, Japan and China both move into the top five.
Similarly, the Wealth-X Billionaire Census (2015-2016) reports that overall wealth in Asia rose by 19.6%, while 26.1% of the world’s billionaires now come from Asia (645 billionaires), equivalent to a rise of 15.2%. Asia is also responsible for 57% of all new billionaires and 70% of new billionaire wealth, with China and the ASEAN countries leading the way. Even so, they don't yet feature in the top five countries for superyacht ownership, so there's significant untapped potential in the region.
Yacht ownership is still in its infancy but the trend for luxury pastimes and yachting is inevitable, so the Asian market is hugely important to the yachting industry and, together with Lai Sun, C&N is well placed to capitalize on this.
OO: Beyond China, which other new markets are important for Camper & Nicholsons over the next decade?
PC: Obviously the Asia Pacific Region is an extremely important market for Camper & Nicholsons, but we must not forget the traditional markets of America and Europe and our aim here is to strengthen our presence to attract new clients.
OO: Over the past few years we've seen a trend for industry-led initiatives to raise awareness of the career opportunities in yachting, to raise training standards and reward excellence. What's your view and how is Camper & Nicholsons shaping the next generation?
PC: Camper & Nicholsons has been instrumental in establishing and evolving the superyacht industry. Over a decade ago we introduced the Young Designer Award in collaboration with the World Superyacht Awards in order to encourage career opportunities in the industry. We're no longer involved with the awards but we're delighted that they continue to be a huge success.
At ground level, our crew placement division is in contact with crew on a daily basis and has a database of over 20,000 qualified crew who they help to navigate the growing complexities of legislation in the superyacht sector. In the past we also provided a Crew Coach Programme to the crews onboard our managed fleet, and today we run the Crew All Stars Awards scheme to recognize the dedicated and hardworking crew onboard our managed fleet.
OO: How would you describe the overall ethos and ambition of the Camper & Nicholsons Group?
PC: Our ethos and ambition is to support yacht owners through their entire lifecycle of ownership, adding convenience, easing complexity and providing our clients with the unburdened freedom to enjoy yachting to the fullest.
OO: As general awareness of the environment increases, what is C&N’s position on the environmental performance of yachts beyond regulatory compliance – either in design and build or in on board operations?
PC: Camper & Nicholsons was the first brokerage to introduce environmental factors to our clients. In 2005 we teamed up with The CarbonNeutral Company to make our company carbon neutral by measuring how much carbon dioxide we produced from all our activities, educating employees and setting targets to reduce our footprint. We offset our emmissions by supporting renewable energy and sustainable forestry projects around the world.
We also encourage owners and charter clients to offset the C02 associated with fuel consumption, and we introduced the CarbonNeutral Programme to the Monaco Yacht Show to facilitate the offset of carbon emissions from the show.
OO: Who do you most admire in the world of business/yachting, who has inspired or influenced you?
PC: I have had the opportunity to work with so many extraordinary professionals during my career, it’s difficult to single out one person, but I greatly admire George Nicholson for his part in establishing C&N’s superyacht charter and sales brokerage in the South of France in the 1950s.
OO: Which is your favourite yacht and why?
PC: There are so many beautiful yachts afloat it’s difficult to choose one. I love the J Class yachts such as Endeavour, and the old C&N classic motor yacht Marala. I also appreciate the motor yacht ECO for her groundbreaking design in her day - George Nicholson was involved in her build. I also like modern yachts such as Ocean Victory for the sheer scale of her build which is outstanding.
OO: What is the most important thing you’ve learned during your career so far?
PC: I’m still learning every day!
OO: What developments do you foresee in the superyacht industry over the next 10 years?
PC: The Superyacht industry has been consolidating for some years and has changed a lot with the arrival of some new strong Asian players. I believe the trend will continue and foresee an industry made by fewer, stronger players. This will change the balance of powers and geography of business.