Superyacht broker Jamie Edmiston talks business, boats and the future of luxury travel

The accidental yacht broker who influenced an entire industry

Monte Carlo, London, New York and St Bart’s all play host to the trademark red ‘Spreader’ Jamie Edmiston made so recognisable when joining his father’s company in 2001, overseeing a sharp rebranding and new marketing strategy to reach more clients than ever before. And as a man at the forefront of luxury travel, it’s apparent that he’s used to being in transit.

“You have to be prepared to travel quite a lot. Obviously we’re in a globalised world, and you meet a lot of interesting people on the way. But the yacht business is not about hanging around on yachts on holiday. It’s an occasional by-product – and it’s a nice by-product – but it’s definitely the rarity rather than the norm.”

With a background in brand management and a lifetime spent around yachts – not to mention a three-year hiatus he took to overhaul another luxury brand, Linley – he found a role at Edmiston that brought his skill set together.

“I really fell into the yachting industry by accident. I knew about boats, but my passion was brand, and it just so happened that my father ran a business where brand, the role of the brand, hadn’t really been deployed.”

It wasn’t until 2014 that he returned to take his father’s mantel. Though vacations are few and far between for the CEO – “You can never really turn off. If you want to be good at it, you’re on the go 24/7” – it seems even high-flying executives are now benefitting from a changing relationship with travel and leisure, one that is more considerate towards personal commitments.

I really fell into the yachting industry by accident. I knew about boats, but my passion was brand

“The thing that has really changed in the last 20 years is that you can now run a business from a yacht in your swimming trunks. With satellite communications you can do it anywhere in the world. But you can still have quality time with your family, go swimming with your children, and then step into a video conference back on board. You have the ability to balance both.”

Understanding these shifts in clients’ expectations was key to Edmiston’s continued success and their ability to adapt to changing tides. The likes of Instagram and other digital channels also had a huge impact on the size of their potential audience and how the message of their brand was shared.

“We used to send brochures out to a select group of clients, but if you weren’t on our database you probably didn’t get the brochure. Today, anyone in the world can learn about what we do. Yachting is still expensive, in relative terms, but a lot of people have the ability to charter yachts who perhaps never thought about it.”

Challenges will always be ongoing: Hurricane Irma laying waste to popular charter destinations in the Caribbean; the spectre of new international trade deals after Brexit; not to mention ever-increasing competition in the digital sphere. (“Digital has arguably made it more competitive”). But the client-based relationships at the industry’s core are the strongest sign that it can weather these figurative and literal storms.

“What’s still so, so important is the relationship. Though I wouldn’t say it’s going to prevent disruption in the business, relationships are key, trust is key, and we are in a people business.” Despite countless advancements in technology and the way those interactions take place, “it will never replace the ability to make a very complicated deal happen. Or persuade a client to do a deal, because he trusts you. It’s not as easy to replace the human element.”

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