Affinity: Focus on the start of a new cycle

Affinity Shipping is growing its financial services offerings, conscious of the “new breed of investors” coming into the industry, the brokerage’s managing partner Richard Fulford-Smith tells Maritime CEO today.

Fulford-Smith, one of the best-known names in shipbroking throughout the world, founded Affinity in January of 2015, after a lengthy stint at Clarkson followed by a few years at Platou.

Expertise rather than scale was the founding mantra of this new brokerage. Nevertheless, it has built up a a diverse range of services as well as 10 offices across the world in a short amount of time.
Fulford-Smith believes shipping is entering a new cycle, one where it will pay to be agile in order to profit.

The shipbroking scene has changed dramatically in recent years with many mergers, not least between two former employers of Fulford-Smith – Clarkson and Platou. Affinity however continues to keep its powder dry.

“We have adopted a somewhat different approach to the big houses,” Fulford-Smith says.
While Affinity’s emphasis is still on S&P, shipbuilding and freight and cargo brokerage, its capital/financial services side of the business is now being grown.

“Whilst we still have great traditional shipping investors to support we increasingly see that a new breed of investors invade their space and adapt a different investment strategy,” the broking veteran relates. “We seek to help and advise on where we need to build new infrastructure to deal with next generation shipping needs.”

Fulford-Smith has more time to focus on the day job now too following the news last week that his bar and restaurant chain has closed down. Affinity Bars and Restaurant, founded eight years ago, had four establishments across London.

“The fatal Brexit vote heralded the start of a different economic cycle for the UK and London in particular. We suspected it would hurt us and it has,” Fulford-Smith relates, adding: “London’s high street looks set to have a very challenging few years as the full effect of the Brexit decision impacts further.”

With the taps now turned off at his food and beverage empire, Fulford-Smith is now more focused on his broking business.

“Less time spent on and in bars will indeed have a positive impact on the shipbroking company,” he quips.


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