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Five minutes with: Thomas O’Nial, Sales Manager UK
Camper & Nicholsons
4th February 2022

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Five minutes with: Thomas O’Nial, Sales Manager UK

For Sales Manager Thomas O’Nial, yachting is in the blood.

The former London-based oil derivatives trader spent his childhood cruising the world on his family’s classic sailing boat, where his father—having spent years competing on the international regatta circuit—instilled in his children a passion for the freedom that only a yacht can provide.

A career in finance was not, however, what a young Thomas envisioned playing pirate all those summers ago. Now firmly embedded within Camper & Nicholsons Mayfair office, he is now responsible for sales in both brokerage and new build.

C&N: Tell me a bit about your background. What made you want to get back to yachting after a career in finance?

After I graduated from the London School of Economics, I got into what everyone else was doing at the time: financial markets. So, I worked on that as an oil derivatives trader, which was a lot of fun. It’s basically geopolitics, which I love. I’m a big history fan. And it was basically having my finger on the pulse of what was happening in the world at any point in time, which was very exciting.

But it’s also extremely stressful, and not something I wanted to do in the long run. I was looking at six computer screens, sitting in my chair for 12 hours a day. Making and losing money—including some of my own—which was both exhilarating and terrifying.

So, I decided to go back to the family trade I had grown up in. I knew it was a lot of fun, and people had told me—and I felt too—that I would be quite successful at it.

C&N: Your family is quite involved in yachting, are they not?

Yeah, my dad is a mad Aussie who did all the races, Sydney-Hobart, Fastnet, the lot of them. Then he moved to Europe and started building racing yachts.

We owned a classic sailing boat on which we toured the Med when I was eight or nine years old. That was awesome. I was home-schooled at the time; I was doing two to three hours of school a day. The rest of the time, I was a pirate. That was really cool. The family still keeps a sailing boat in Greece which we enjoy every summer.

C&N: Is there any aspect of your job you enjoy the most?

Building and maintaining relationships, I think. That’s what it’s all about.

I have had the privilege of meeting some fascinating, larger than life and sometimes eccentric characters, both in faraway exotic destinations and closer to home. One of my main drivers in this industry is the people that I meet - we have access to inaccessible people, and can create relationships at a personal level with people shaping the world of today & tomorrow, picking their brains in the process. It is truly fascinating!

I think it’s essential to always be building your own knowledge as well. Visiting as many shipyards as I can, keeping on top of what goes on in the industry. Going to the boat shows as well, that’s always gratifying.

C&N: What are some trends you foresee in the brokerage and new build market?

A lot of people are becoming more concerned with sustainability. I think there’s a genuine concern about the very areas that people enjoy. They want to be able to enjoy them in the long run, you know?

I think 2021 has been an incredible year. We’ll see if that can be sustained in the future, like how shipyards will cope with all the boats they sold. This year will be an interesting year in terms of inventory, what with everything being pretty much sold out.

C&N: As a yacht broker, what are your core values?

Well, you need to be knowledgeable, of course. You need to be fair and objective in your analysis and advice. You need to be able to get them the best deal—which can sometimes conflict with your personal interests, but at the end of the day, you’re there to serve them the best way you can.

So, fairness and a thorough understanding of the market. I think that sums it up.

C&N: Would you consider these your strengths?

Some, yes. I’d also consider my experience in new builds to be an area of expertise. I’ve been actively involved in over, I would say, 15 to 20 new build projects, from concept to delivery. Following a client through that process is definitely a strength of mine.

I’ve also got extensive experience with transactions and advising on corporate structures, flagging, as well as how to market a yacht.

I speak several languages too. I grew up in many countries. That gives me a fairly global worldview. 

C&N: Where can we find you when you’re not in the office?

I’m always on the go, always keen to discover new places. I have a personal target of visiting three new countries I’ve never seen before per year. It was tough with Covid, but I managed! I’m really into mountaineering as well; this year, I’m planning to summit Mont Blanc and Mount Kilimanjaro next year.

But my heart is obviously in yachting. It’s the best way to travel, you can be totally free. For me, yachting is the definition of freedom. You’re not tied to anything; you literally just throw the ropes and decide where you go, depending, of course, on the wind and the weather. You start in one place, you wake up tomorrow with a completely different view. It doesn’t matter if you have a five-metre skiff or a 100-metre mega yacht, it’s the same experience: total freedom.

If you’re interested in buying, selling or building a yacht, reach out to Thomas:

+44 7884 535 298