I recently connected with three long-time Q88 Position List customers to discuss what it’s like to be a ship broker. Each one gave me a look into their personal brokering style, how they unwind and disconnect from their busy – and often hectic – day of chasing cargoes, what each has learned through the pandemic and what advice they’d give someone interested in a ship broking career. Joining me in this discussion included:
- Joe Zhou (JZ) of Firstlink Global, Singapore
Joe admitted that he has been a ship broker for far too long to remember; through his experience comes equally great insight.
- Fabrizio Sanguinetti (FS) of Bravo Tankers, Genoa
Fabrizio’s journey started over a quarter of a century ago, and as he is currently holding down the LNG desk. Fabrizio talked with excitement about the opportunities that LNG will bring to the future.
- Steve Curt (SC) of Dietze, Connecticut USA
Steve has been at Dietze for 13 years and provided great perspective as to what it takes to be a new broker.
QUESTION: What markets do you cover?
JZ: I cover East of the Suez.
FS: After starting on clean and dirty handies, I then worked on clean, and now on LNG. Change is good and LNG is a great bridge to the future!
SC: I cover the clean markets.
QUESTION: How would you describe your broking style?
JZ: I would consider myself aggressive but patient. Trying to find that balance is difficult but it serves me well!
FS: I would say I am resilient, and am able to make progress one step at a time. Brokers have to continually adapt to the present situation, which means always learning and growing. For example, learning new technology and adapting to understand new markets.
SC: I like to adapt to my clients and their needs. For example, some clients need a buddy, some need a numbers guy, and others just need a broker to do the job when it’s needed. Whether laid back with some and more aggressive with others, brokering is all about adaptation.
QUESTION: What is the first thing you do when you start your day?
JZ: I consolidate market information to be up-to-date on what’s going on so I can talk to clients in a more informed manner.
FS: The day never stops, and living in Italy the espresso machines is always on! From the start, I check the web for general world news, as that can impact shipping, and then I catch up on the shipping-specific news. I live online and am constantly checking for updates especially now during COVID – it never goes off. And of course, I keep Q88 open.
SC: The first thing I do is figure out where the tonnage is either via the Q88 Position List, ICE or with calls. Figuring out the positions sometimes allows me to start the call with what is going on with the markets as cargoes work. Working from home and not having to commute to the office allows me to do this first thing in the morning.
QUESTION: What has COVID taught you about broking that you did not know previously?
JZ: How to deal with the struggles of not being able to see a client face-to-face. I learned that there is huge value with in-person meetings, and it was something we was taken for granted pre-COVID.
FS: That I am lucky that I could do my job while not leaving the house in order to stay safe as people became sick. In these difficult times, I have realized that maintaining a healthy routine outside of work – apart from being a ship broker – is just as important as the job itself.
SC: I have had the realization that you can work from home effectively, but being together with colleagues is still beneficial. It’s really hard not to state the fact that you can work anywhere.
QUESTION: What advice would you give people interested in being a ship broker?
JZ: Take the first, then keep at it.
FS: Being a new broker, you need to be ready and open; absorb all of the information you can and eventually you will find your way. Being a broker is a great job, so be passionate about it and you will find the reward.
SC: Make your presence known, otherwise it’s hard to build business relationships. The landscape is still very competitive and anything you do to separate yourself from the competition helps.
QUESTION: After a stressful day, how do you cope and decompress?
JZ: This is simple; crack open a cold one with the bros!
FS: Normally, I would play sports, but for now, walking the dog and spending time with the family; it’s a great way to have that home / work balance!
SC: With a new office in South Norwalk, there are a ton of trails and places to walk near the Norwalk River. Through working from home, I have enjoyed spending time with my kids during the day. Heading back to the office makes it a bit more difficult, but something I look forward to doing after work.
As someone that spent well over a decade sitting in the broker’s chair, it was great to hear what these responses were. As I ponder Q88’s 20th year, my takeaway is that although the business environment continues to evolve, traits like perseverance, the ability to listen and adapt are characteristics for brokers that transcend market conditions. I think this is a common thread that has been key to the success of these long-time customers and Q88’s Position List.