WHAT IS BROKER SUPPORT?
The general trend in shipbroking companies is to use an intern or trainee shipbroker as the ‘go to’ person for all ‘lesser’ tasks involved in shipbroking – research, spreadsheets, data input etc.
To buck the trend, at DSB we have spent the last year developing the niche role of ‘broker support’. Think ‘legal secretary’, and you may come close to the role and the value of a dedicated broker support team in a busy shipbroking office.
A person in the role of broker support is someone who knows the business and responsibilities of the shipbroker, who understands the pressures and time-consuming tasks, but unlike the broker, is office based, has an eye for detail and a flair for admin and systems.
At DSB Offshore Ltd we have pioneered this unique role in order to maximise the speed and efficiency with which our qualified shipbrokers are able to do their work.
Our broker support team generally have an advanced understanding of the process of broking the sale and purchase or charter of a vessel within our very niche business. They routinely perform tasks such as researching companies, gathering vessel specifications, preparing travel itineraries, booking flights and trains, and preparing some of the paperwork for the brokers.
At DSB our broker support experts not only carry out these tasks, but have developed systems, templates and processes to make it more efficient. While having distinct job functions and responsibilities, our broker support team work closely together with the shipbrokers, who rely on their intimate understanding of a deal and appreciate their ability to quickly put their hands on necessary paperwork and vessel details to support the brokers as they travel to far flung places on business.
In order to understand their job more fully, DSB encourages the broker support team to attend some conferences and exhibitions like Seawork in Southampton and Offshore Energy in Amsterdam.
We train our broker support team up from having no experience. It is not a prerequisite for them to have a background in shipping. This model allows us to raise them up in our company culture, to adopt our values and remain with DSB for the long haul.
WHY HAVE A SUPPORT TEAM AT ALL? CAN’T THE BROKERS DO IT ALL THEMSELVES?
Times are changing. Everyone has a laptop, smartphone and tablet. We can go wherever the work takes us, right? Senior management no longer need someone to dictate to or to type letters and briefs for them. But now that they are doing all their own correspondence, does that mean brokers can technically ‘do it all’?
In theory … perhaps.
However, business is not as abundant as it used to be and there is so much more information to be found freely on the internet that brokers who simply demand a ‘finder’s fee’ are not respected and will find themselves quickly discarded in today’s shipping industry.
DSB’s ethos has a long held belief, since its inception in 1981, that we so not just edge our way into a deal like a middle man who is despised and resented. We aim to provide a value added brokerage service and in such, we get involved at every stage of a deal. We get to know and support our clients in every aspect of a project from consultation, to tender stage and on to closing. Very often we are physically by the client’s side at inspections, personal meetings, dealings with lawyers and even down to the final signature. In such, we have built long standing working relationships, even friendships with clients and other brokers.
With the current economic climate, the indirect knock-on effect of low oil prices and the changing nature of business, each deal is becoming more and more complex. Senior shipbrokers, with years of experience, can be invaluable to the successful completion of a marine project. Some deals go on for long periods of time, are time consuming and problem rich. Remaining an expert in our vessel specialisms, coming up with creative solutions and negotiating between conflicting parties must be done by qualified and experienced shipbrokers.
Partnered with a knowledgeable, hard-working, proactive, tech-savvy office-based broker support team, abreast with new technology and efficient systems of practice, DSB is able to fulfil its mandate of giving a ‘value-added’ service.
All DSB staff take turns to deliver professional development seminars in the office in order to share good practice and keep abreast of changes in vessel markets. The Broker Support team facilitate and manage these training labs. This encourages learning at all levels and a team spirit in the office.
Some of our broker support team hope to move on to qualify as shipbrokers themselves in the future. If so, the job of broker support provides an excellent training ground and a springboard into the industry. They ‘grow up’ in the team work ethos of DSB where we believe that everyone is involved in securing a deal.
Their efforts are valued and necessary.
The role of the shipbroker will continue to change and develop as technology advances. As we train up our broker support team and remain flexible, teachable and efficient in our systems of work, DSB hopes to be at the forefront of industry changes.
We are very busy in our office, but we work hard and we work as a team. We relish the growing business and challenge of our industry and our shipbrokers don’t pretend to be able to do it all ourselves.
The role of Broker Support is an essential cog in the DSB wheel.