After announcing the establishment of their first joint venture in May of this year, we caught up with Mario Cicognani and Karin Paggi during the Cannes Yachting Festival, to hear more about their new brokerage firm KarMa Yachting. Having worked together for eight years within the Ferretti Group, Karin as the Sales Director of Custom Line and Mario as a Sales Manager within the Group, the duo decided leverage their joint experience and set up their own boutique brokerage firm, aiming to share their decades of expertise in new- build and yacht sales with their clients.
What inspired you to leave Ferretti Group and set up KarMa Yachting?
Karin: It wasn’t one singular event that made us decide to set up KarMa Yachting, we’d worked together for many years and always had a great working relationship. Gradually we began to talk about how we could leverage our shared experience to benefit a broad range of clients and once the seed was sown it organically grew.
Mario: We were looking for a new challenge, I think we’d both reached a point where we had started to think about the future and consider what the next 10 years could look like. The Ferretti Group was a brilliant company to work for but I always felt the draw of creating something of my own that stepped me outside of my comfort zone. When I started to share those ambitions with Karin, we realised that we could take advantage of all the experience we had gained within the Group and use our intimate knowledge of the sales and build process on the shipyard side to offer clients an unique perspective.
In a sense, you’ve seen it all from the yard’s perspective, can you share how you’re using this to benefit your clients?
Karin: Its been an amazing transition to move to the other side of the buyer- yard relationship and work so intimately with yacht owners. I think our collective experience within the shipyard is the key point of the service offer; the fact that we know the yards’ process means that we are able to avoid the issues that often delay projects or complicate the build process. We also speak the same language as the shipyard and that helps us to navigate the communications smoothly to streamline the negotiations.
Mario: Absolutely. Our experience means that we can prevent a lot of potential situations and gives the client and shipyard the confidence that their broker deeply understands the complications of the process they are going through.
Karin: There are also a lot of new buyers entering ownership for the first time and it can be challenging to truly understand the internal processes of the yachting industry. I think we are ideally placed to introduce those new owners to the sector and to guide them through the buying process with confidence.
Mario: On the other side of that, there are also many very experienced and technically knowledgeable owners in the industry who want to work with brokers who have a deep knowledge of yachts and the sector.
Is your focus predominantly on new-build or do you also offer used yacht brokerage and how do you find your clients?
Karin: We absolutely offer both new- build and brokerage management to our clients and we may well offer charter management in the future. Our approach at the moment is to gradually grow our network of clients. It is still very early days and we feel it’s important not to grow too quickly because we want to offer a truly customised and bespoke service to every client. We are also very clear that we don’t want to step on the toes of other established brokerage houses, or the shipyard’s themselves, and so gradual growth and a collaborative approach is very important to us.
Mario: We have both built an expansive network of professionals in the industry, and many of those individuals, particularly suppliers and project managers, have recommended us to their clients. That network is also invaluable because it helps us to establish a team of experts that suit the character and demands of each individual owner. Every owner should have a tailor-made service and it’s important to us that all of the professionals that we introduce to the owner, such as project managers, lawyers, surveyors and designers, are the right match.
Can you share some of the most interesting elements of setting up your own company?
Karin: It has been absolutely fascinating visiting yachts and shipyard’s that are outside of the remit of the Ferretti Group. When you work at a yard, your perspective is restricted but we have spent the last six months understanding the structure and construction methods of other yards from other regions. It has been important for us to get a deep understanding of how every yard operates, so that we are able to offer that deep knowledge and expertise to every owner we work with.
Mario: It’s been interesting to understand the character of other shipyards. There is a yacht for every client but there is also a yard that will suit each client’s needs and attitude.
Aside from visiting yards in Europe, are there other regions that you believe are valuable?
Karin: During our time at Ferretti we each gained experience within different regions. I was focused on Europe and the US, while Mario was deeply focused on the Middle East and that is a structure that we will be continuing at KarMa Yachting.
Mario: We definitely see that there is a shift coming, with a greater focus on the developments in the Middle East and more owners originating from that region. The investment in the Gulf and the Red Sea are staggering, and it is undeniable that this will impact the superyacht industry, so I look forward to leveraging my experience in that region to help our clients.
Finally, the name of the company is more than just an anagram of your names, can you tell us how it reflects the ethos of the firm?
Mario: The name came about somewhat by chance, inspired by the slogan of a soap brand in a hotel, but it’s really rooted in our belief that transparency and honesty are the key to a successful broker-owner relationship.
Karin: The process of yacht acquisition and construction can be stressful and complex and many owners are deterred from ownership because of a negative acquisition process. Our goal is to eradicate those challenges and operate in a calm and efficient way to encourage owners to remain within the industry.
Francesca Webster – SuperYacht Times, Winter 2023 issue