Every superyacht needs the best technology for its requirements, but there is so much available that without the necessary expertise it can seem impossible to specify the right equipment to create an integrated system that meets the client’s budget. Hence the boom of technology management and advisory businesses. With these services now firmly in the mainstream, most of these companies fill a very lucrative space within the yachting industry. But with many working on a commission and/or a sales margin from tech manufacturers or even developing their own products, how can owners, who only want factual information from which to base their decisions on, be sure that they are getting an unbiased specification of suppliers and technology in the superyacht market?
The impartial route
To our knowledge, there is just one technology consultancy currently which acts in an entirely independent manner; SMART Technology Advisers. With its growing success, the company’s business model has broken enough ground for other technology-expert companies to consider carefully about following the impartial route. But what are the main features of an independent adviser, and do they provide a viable solution for owners searching for the best advice on tech?
A fundamental characteristic of an independent adviser is that they don’t take any commission or percentage, and work to a fixed fee. This allows them to analyse all technology options equally and efficiently to suit their client’s needs. They want the best fit for the owner and yacht and are uninhibited by any partnerships or payments in advising on the best fitting tech. As such, independent advisers never sell products; they simply obtain the best fit technology, from suppliers and integrators, based around the owners needs and wants.
Technology management companies, on the other hand, many act as a one stop shop for superyachts. They assess the market, but frequently provide owners with their own servicing programs for when a system fails, as well as selling their own or affiliated products. This can lead to the installation of over complex systems which can only be supported at great cost because of the withholding of source codes etc. This model may suit owners who are not too hands on. However, if an owner is very involved and keen on getting the technology that is exactly right for their needs, an impartial adviser is often the better fit. The independent adviser never sells support packages, their own or otherwise; instead they ensure the problem is resolved by liaising between the supplier/integrator and client.
Why the traditional model?
From a business perspective, there is more money to be made in the typical technology management model than that of the independent adviser, and this is perhaps why it has proved more popular for companies starting out to choose this line.
Kerry Pettitt, Commercial Director at SMART, said:
“The owners that we work with love our service because they can be really involved with the project if they want to and are able to make decisions based on the factual information we provide them with, and that’s what they’re looking for. Others may want the one-stop shop approach, which can cost more in the long run, but it means they don’t need to be involved. Owners that we represent tend to be very hands on. It’s very rewarding working with owners that are passionate about all aspects of the project. They want to make the final decision on what products and services to use, which integrator, everything. And that suits us…”
Trust-worthy financial assessment
The unbiased approach allows independent advisers to do their very best for the owner. Suppliers are happy to provide regular financial information knowing it’s held confidentially and will not be given to their competition. This is very important because assessments can be made based on the financial stability of a supplier, and this in turn reassures any potential owner that they will be able to handle the financial demands of contracting for a new build project.
The superyacht industry has got used to the traditional technical management model. However, Pettitt has seen attitudes starting to shift, with owners demanding more independence from their advisers.
He said: “Ours is a tight-knit industry, there is a network of owners who speak with each other and recommend businesses. We’ve started to get more and more word of mouth recommendations and this is due in no small part to our impartiality. The owners and crew get exactly what they want or need. The alternative is to go to an industry integrator or supplier to ask their opinion, in which case the recommendation of products in their portfolio takes precedent and isn’t necessarily the best solution for the owner…
They can trust SMART to tell them realistically what to change or upgrade, as we have no incentive to do otherwise. When we are writing a specification for an owner, it is based purely around their needs. For example, if they have poor eyesight we make sure every keypad has larger buttons to press – we can provide this because we are not restricted to a portfolio.”
As a unique advisory option, SMART’s success seems to be a sign that a demand for impartiality is gaining momentum. It seems likely that there will be more superyacht sector advisers adhering to the impartial model in the future. Hopefully, this will mean that owners and crew are better served than ever, as the market opens up to this new style.
For more information, head to SMART’s website