• Client Relations: The Key to Successful Vessel Management

Client Relations: The Key to Successful Vessel Management

In this interview, Samuel Alabaster, Head of Client Services in Trident Trust’s Marine Services team, explains how the client-facing experience he gained working in the retail industry has been crucial in delivering consistent service excellence. 

Transitioning to the Corporate World

Before joining Trident Trust Marine Services in Guernsey, Samuel worked in the retail sector for 5 years, with a particular focus on retail operations management. Although retail management and finance services seem to be very different industries, they share one important thing in common – customer service.

“My career began in the retail sector, where I worked as a Retail Operations Manager for a number of years, gaining ample insights into customer service and hands-on experience in how to build successful client relationships. I never really considered beginning a career in the financial services industry until some friends suggested that I explore the job opportunities offered by Trident Trust in Guernsey, which was well known for being a good employer. I was lucky enough to be invited for an interview with Jonathan, who heads the Marine Services team, and that is how I started my journey at Trident Trust. Slowly transitioning from the retail world to the financial sector, my experience and skills in customer service were vital and proved to be a great help in building relationships in my role. “

First Steps with Trident

Samuel started working at Trident Trust as a payroll administrator in the Marine Services team and spent his first few years at the company developing technical knowledge. Combining highly technical industry knowledge with his existing customer service skills, has proven key to his success in the new role. Trident Trust is enthusiastic about sponsoring team members academically with courses and training, which helped him to quickly gain knowledge and experience.

“The marine services industry is an incredibly competitive and sophisticated market. It is essential to have deep industry knowledge and to stay up to date with the regulations and requirements to be able to properly support clients. It is also crucial to be personable to enjoy building relationships to successfully collaborate with clients and third parties. This just highlights how important transferable skills are in any industry, especially people skills.

Another key principle for me is value alignment. Having previously worked for a partnership company, which was owned and managed by its employees, I already had a good sense of the value of personal investment in the team. My work ethic and overall mindset, which places great importance on personal commitment and ownership in one’s work, transferred over well to my new role at Trident Trust.”

A Journey of Growth and Contribution

Trident Trust’s Marine Services offering has undergone several evolutions since its inception. Having started as a provider of payroll services, the department then added employment services, and subsequently broader marine services such as vessel registration and ownership services. Samuel started his career with Trident Trust during one of these major shifts, which was a window of opportunity for him to play a big role in the growth of the company.

“From the moment I joined Trident Trust, I immediately noticed how management welcomed employee input, and this was a great opportunity for me to contribute to the team, and to progress in my career by being promoted to Team Manager and then to Head of Client Services.

Over the years, I have worked with many clients from all over the world across Trident Trust’s global footprint, both on the commercial side, such as cruise lines, as well as in the oil and gas sector, and on the private client side such as private yacht owners and management companies. When working with clients, it is important to deliver quality service on time, despite the many complexities that inevitably arise. Merging our commercial and private client portfolios has proven beneficial to me and the team, as the knowledge and skills gained from working with the two different sectors has crossed over very well.

The last five years have been incredibly positive and transformative for me, and I really enjoyed the constant growth and flexibility that working in this industry involves. Most notably, I feel that my inputs as an individual are always well received and appreciated by the team, and this speaks of Trident Trust’s attitude towards cultivating an open and inclusive work environment where everyone can contribute and make a difference.”

Empowering Excellence

From his experience, Samuel believes that upskilling and training team members is crucial to equip them with the knowledge and skills required to stay at the forefront of such an ever-changing regulatory environment, as well as to help them deliver consistently good service.

“Soon after I started working at Trident Trust, I was encouraged to complete a Level 3 Technician Certificate in Payroll with the Chartered institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP), which I successfully completed in 9 months. After that, I went on to complete a three-year Level 5 Foundation Degree in Payroll Management with the CIPP. I also then worked to get the entire company accredited on the CIPP Payroll Assurance Scheme. Trident Trust really supports its staff through continuous professional development and encourages team members to seek out additional training and qualification opportunities.”

What Marine Services Does Trident Trust Offer and How Have They Been Evolving?

“Our marine team specialises in employment and payroll services, i.e., employing crew and paying them, however the business has evolved a lot over the years (and continues to) in order to better support the growing needs of our clients. We recently started offering additional services, such as HR consulting and crew travel services. Our marine services team can now advise on HR-related issues, for example ensuring that the Maritime Labour Convention is followed, and that the vessel captains are advised accordingly. Our crew concierge services involve arranging travel for the crew across a wide range of destinations.

We work very closely with our yacht clients, whether the owner or the manager, to support them with their operations, helping them ensure that the vessel is run smoothly and the crew operate in a secure environment. We also assist yacht owners with the implementation and administration of structures for their valuable vessels, which includes yacht registration services and liaison with flag states. For commercial clients, our services are tailored to their requirements, allowing us to support a wide range of clients with whatever they need."

What Are Some Important Considerations for Yacht Management Companies? Are There Any Crucial Touchpoints for Working in the Marine Industry, especially from a Compliance Perspective?

“Client relationship management is becoming more important as regulatory environments become more complex. Without a close understanding of the client’s operations and requirements, it can be difficult to meet all their needs.

Maintaining daily open communication with the client to stay informed about any changing needs is crucial. Legislation and regulations have evolved a lot over the last decade, and Brexit has changed the marine landscape significantly. Much of our marine services team’s work involves helping clients understand changing requirements. For example, staying in French waters for too long will result in a vessel being liable for French Social Security. These are all important things to consider when advising and working with our clients.

We stay on top of these developments to protect both the crew and the yacht. It is therefore very important to have good communication from the start, and to maintain it throughout. The team takes care to be on top of any new regulations and changes to industry landscape, and places great importance on making sure that clients are aware of and understand any changes as they occur.

Another important element is long-term relationship building. Trident Trust is not just providing administration services but is a valued advisor and partner. We work closely with our clients as an extension of their team."

For more information on related topics, you can read Laura Kreckeler’s article on Compliant Crewing.