Heesen YachtTalk Specials, Season 4, Episode 5
In episode five of YachtTalk Season 4, host Charlotte Kan discusses the latest in superyacht market trends with boutique London brokerage Cecil Wright. She sits down with Partner and sales broker Henry Smith at the company’s London offices to find out what impact rising interest rates, the threat of a recession and the enduring war in Ukraine are having on yachting.
Ten years strong
The brokerage firm Cecil Wright was set up by Henry Smith and Cecil Wright in 2013. A decade on and the company is going strong with offices in the UK, Jersey and Monaco, and a team of 17 covering sales and charter. Celebrating the company’s 10th anniversary in 2023, Smith believes the core differentiator is the company’s niche approach.
“At the beginning, we took a step back and had a look at the industry,” he says. “We realised that every brokerage is pretty much the same, insofar as they offer everything at the top end, everything at the bottom end, and everything in between. But there’s too much out there to know it all. Our approach is to focus on a small part of the market and know our sector very well, and that segment is large, custom, northern European motoryachts with a focus on Dutch and German building.”
He cites the consistent and high build quality of Dutch and German shipyards, the buyer demographic, including their financial stability and exposure to fluctuating markets, and the resale value of larger yachts as key reasons for their segment choice.
Yachting market trends
When asked to describe the current yacht market conditions, Smith uses one word – “unstable”. “If you look at the smaller boat market between 15 to 30m, people are holding off buying them,” he says. “We saw a huge run on purchases and orders last year, but with rising interest rates, taking out finance on those boats suddenly seems unattractive. On the custom end of the market, you tend not to find that as buyers can borrow against their asset portfolios, which is a far more efficient option.”
He adds that any yacht at the higher end of the market that is sensibly priced and in good condition sells almost instantaneously. Recent sales include 115m Ahpo and 75m Feadship Arrow, while the 95m Lürssen Kismet is now listed for sale with Cecil Wright for €149 million. “We have more than a few interested parties in that yacht,” he adds.
The appetite in the market is there if the yacht is appropriately priced and appropriately marketed. In terms of what new clients are asking for, Smith believes the requirements and wishes of an emerging younger clientele are greatly different to those of an older generation that dominated the market 20 years ago.
“They have a 50-year career as a yacht owner and their requirements are developing and evolving the whole time,” he says. “There’s no such thing as the perfect yacht, only the perfect yacht for that moment in time, but it’s never going to suit you for the whole way through your life.”
Key to success
The trick to nurturing relationships and building trust with clients is to spend time with them, says Smith. Cecil Wright’s goal is not to sell 100 yachts to 100 people but to sell 100 yachts to 10 people.
“You look after clients by giving them the time they deserve and require, and knowing what you’re talking about,” he says. “That’s why we focus on our segment – we’re confident that we can add value.”
It’s a similar approach to Heesen’s brand DNA, which Smith describes as “strong and aspirational,” and one that falls into Cecil Wright’s Dutch pedigree area of speciality.
“The space within the market that Heesen fills is phenomenal,” he says.