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Home-grown Vantage ventures into new segment
VANTAGE, a relatively new local shipbroking company, expanded its operations significantly by setting up a dirty petroleum products (DPP) broking desk in July 2015.
Explaining the reason for taking this initiative, director Randy Yong says: "One of the key criterion in order to survive in our competitive shipbroking industry would be to have at least three, if not four, pillars of support to ride through the high and low crests of the market, mainly CPP (clean petroleum products), DPP (dirty petroleum products), chemicals and S&P (sales & purchase/pd1/8rojects)."
As the strength of the company's core brokers and business have been rooted in mainly CPP and chemicals, the time was right for this third pillar.
"Our expansion into DPP was not only necessary, but also in line with our core value of providing a platform for local and foreign talents to fulfil their broking aspirations. With this, we aim to increase our market reach and fuel expansion by leveraging existing business and working with experienced brokers who share our vision. This synergy to cover all segments of the oil market from crude to chemicals will allow us to provide a more encompassing and informed view to our clients whilst increasing revenue at the same time," says Mr Yong.
As Vantage expands, it sees a bright future in view of Singapore's growing role as an international maritime centre.
"Our government has always shown unwavering support with many initiatives for the maritime sector over the years. This commitment is apparent through both infrastructure growth and education. In terms of foundation and personnel, we have seen an increase in courses and curriculums offered, where recruitment of bright young minds has gone beyond our borders to other parts of Asia," says Mr Yong.
As with the finance, banking and services sectors in Singapore, from a shipbroking perspective, he feels that there is still much room for Singapore to grow in the value-add and analytical space. Shipbroking has historically been controlled from London but with the development of regional trade, Singapore would be destined as a regional hub for shipping, trade and commerce.
Shipbrokers are at the centre of commercial shipping transactions, and when this data is merged and analysed holistically with macro-data, shipbrokers are best placed to leverage this information and move up into the consulting space as well. Major foreign shipbroking firms are already providing such services, and local shipbroking firms are now starting to catch up. Given that Singapore is a preferred hub for growing Asian shipowners, local shipbroking firms such as Vantage have a natural advantage in this field.
Asked about growth plans, Mr Yong says Vantage is geared towards competitive broking in the bulk liquids markets and has expanded its research and advisory team to cover clean and dirty petroleum products, chemicals and gas.
"We believe that as a company we should continually seek opportunities to grow and build new relationships. Where possible, we seek to add on divisions which we feel would give our clients a more comprehensive coverage of the market."
Mr Yong says Vantage's key strength is its people. "We've always held the belief that if we share the same core values, we can create a company culture that works well to serve the nature of the shipbroking business. This requires a lot of real-time ability to troubleshoot and solve problems with the best information at hand. While situations may look similar, they are never the same and there is no margin for errors.
"Our flat management structure breaks down barriers between employees and management and enhances communication, which is very important for SMEs to grow quickly. Our open concept office allows anyone to hear everyone where problems and discussions are inclusive within the environment."
As part of its growth plans Vantage has entered China via a joint venture to cover the huge Chinese domestic chemicals market.
"Doing business in China requires a totally different set of skills from what we've grown accustomed to in Singapore. Vantage Shanghai is headed by one of our directors who has 15 years of experience dealing with the Chinese in banking, asset management and now ship chartering," says Mr Yong.
As for the current downturn in the global shipping environment, he says everyone knows that the business environment for the last few years have not been easy, so a prudent balance sheet and cash flow management is very important.
"With a healthy control of expenses and minimising the potential for bad debts, the expansion can continue at a careful pace. Even with the downturn we continue to re-invest in the company to upgrade and expand our systems, subscriptions and headcount for the renewal process," he adds.
Vantage Shipbrokers Pte Ltd was incorporated in April 2012 to provide broking services regionally. The company has a staff of more than 30 in two years. " We are proud to be one of the few local shipbroking firms in Singapore," says Mr Yong.