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5th January 2021

Meet the team – Gail Belcher – Chief Financial Officer, WYM Group

What is your background and how did you become involved in yacht management accounts?

I had been running the accounts at a computer shop when Allan Wilson asked me to help him look after the accounts for yachts he was managing shortly after he had launched the business some 25 years ago. He had just taken on his second yacht to manage and running both a growing new business and overseeing the accounts on two vessels was becoming too much for him to do alone. I’ve stayed ever since and it has been wonderful to see the business grow to now manage a fleet of superyachts and commercial ships across the world, and with an office in Florida as well as the UK. I am an ACCA qualified accountant and I now oversee an experienced team who manage the accounts of the company’s managed vessels.

What do your main duties include?

Mine is a managerial role primarily and that means I oversee the work of our accounts management team, checking what they are doing for our owners and captains day to day and offering my advice and support in the running of their accounts.

We have to ensure we successfully manage the budgets of all the yachts and ships we look after, from accurately forecasting their annual budgets, approving and tracking spend, paying invoices and staff wages, as well as preparing audit-ready monthly accounts reports for the captain and owner.

These reports include a summary of profits, loss and trial balance, and also a fully detailed breakdown of all incomings and outgoings on the particular vessel.

I am also chief financial officer for the business, so I take care of all finances related to WYM Group too.

What are the key requirements of a dedicated yacht and ship management accounts service?

Our team needs to be accessible at all times, to the owners, their accountants and representatives and of course the captains, who we speak to most frequently regarding the vessel’s budget and payroll.

I always stress to our accountants that the relationship they forge with captains is key. There has to be a good understanding and rapport between the two parties for it to work successfully, and it is for that reason that members of our team supports the same yachts or ships for many years.

We work closely with the captains and owners in managing the vessel’s finances, supporting them on a day to day basis whilst keeping to the approved budget.

The skill is always finding a way to run and manage a budget in a manner which meets the owner’s requirements, and the captain’s expectations.

How is a budget calculated, for example, on a mega yacht with a large crew and many guests?

It varies and of course depends on the owner and how much they want to spend, but it is never limitless and many owners want a very clear overview of exactly what is spent and when with regards to the costs of running the vessel.

Essentially an annual budget is calculated by our team at the start of each year for running the vessel and this is shared with the captain and owner, and then agreed by all three parties.

We base this budget on previous spending, the yacht’s schedule, and planning in any extra costs which we expect to be incurred, such as repairs, refits or extra costs associated with maybe travelling to new parts of the world.

We split the budget into three separate cost areas, which are operational costs (what we expect to spend operating the boat), maintenance and refit costs (which are always planned) and non-budgeted costs, which are effectively the owner’s spend and purchases when on board, which most often can’t be predicted.

How is spending managed on a yacht throughout the year?

My team keep track of monthly spending and provide an updated report highlighting any areas of either underspend or overspend in relation to the budget. This report is sent to the owner, with relevant explanations along with the monthly accounts package.

This includes things such as the dockings, crew wages, uniforms, food and the money spent on cash cards which are assigned to designated crew on the vessel. It helps give the captains and owners an overview at all times of the estimated annual spend against the annual budget.

The software that we use enables us to produce accounts with live figures showing any world currency details. Captains find this hugely beneficial.

Invoices are only paid when they have been approved by the relevant person. Again, the key word is transparency.

We have found that all owners, even those with the biggest super and mega yachts, look to us to run a tight ship when it comes to the finances relating to the management and running of their vessel. We are there to ensure the finances are run as efficiently as possible, and crucially in a completely transparent way.

What do you find most enjoyable about the job?

I have always loved the diversity of the role, never knowing what challenges are going to be presented on any given day. It is a fascinating world that we work in and naturally not one that many people see. Discretion is uppermost in everything that we do, and I feel proud that my team and myself maintain the highest standards when dealing with our clients and play a small part in enabling them to enjoy their vessels and have the best possible experience whilst on board. It has been interesting to see the growth of the industry over the last 25 years, where once a 60 meter yacht was considered to be in the top twenty of the largest yachts in the world, today we are managing super yachts and mega yachts from 50 to 100 metres plus.

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