Gibson Shipbrokers managing director Nigel Richardson is retiring at the end of 2021 as the UK-headquartered brokerage moves on to the next stage in its development with Roger Harrison at the helm.
Richardson, 66, has decided to hang up his broking boots altogether after 39 years at the company and will no longer be involved in any of the commercial activity of the 170-strong, employee-owned shop.
Harrison, who joined Gibson 18 months ago as deputy managing director, will take on the top job on 1 January.
Richardson will become one of two executive company trustees working alongside a further pair of elected in-house trustees, on a two-year posting to ensure the company is managed in the best interests of its employees.
The ever-ebullient Richardson told TradeWinds he is happy about the move and feels it is the right time.
"I'm young enough to have a life after shipping," he said.
Richardson enthusiastically describes his farm in East Sussex in the southeast of England, which he said can either be seen as small farm or large smallholding at 60 acres.
He bought it 11 years ago and said it has not been touched for more than 30 years.
“I’m a hobby farmer that will take up all my time, it’s basically large landscaping with boys’ toys,” he said.
Richardson took on the top job at Gibson in 2008.
One of his two priorities was to expand the company's international reach, which he has done with offices in Singapore, Houston, Hong Kong and India.
The second, and arguably more challenging target, was to work on a strategy to liberate Gibson from its main shareholder Hunting, which he achieved in 2015 in a landmark £2.5m ($3.29m) deal.
He said securing the deal took him to new places where he had to dig deep for inner strength, describing it as “challenging” and “a very difficult time”.
Hunting was trying to dispose of Gibson. Richardson revealed that at one point there was a deal on subjects to sell the brokerage to Braemar. “I stopped that,” he said, adding that he knows of half-a-dozen other attempts to sell the business.
Richardson said if he was asked about his legacy he would say it was "preserving Gibsons".
But the outgoing chief has also been a very hands-on working broker too.
He said his brief was to set up a product tanker section, which he did, adding that it has been “hugely successful” and “long-lasting”.
Captain TC2 and Uncle Nige
Richardson famously made the TC2 northwest Europe to the US gasoline trade his own to the extent that he has earned the nickname "King of the Cont" [as in Continent] and "Captain TC2". But consultancy and research director Richard Matthews said the boss is also known affectionately as "Uncle Nige".
Former legendary Gibson boss Eric Shawyer offered Richardson a directorship in 1992 and he turned it down, saying he was too busy fixing ships. But quick on the draw Shawyer said the appointment was already in the post.
"I never joined Gibsons to run it," Richardson said. "All I ever wanted was to have the best most successful product [tanker] team in the world long term."
Richardson said he has enjoyed management because he has been able to achieve but admitted that it is "hard work" and "constant problems".
He said the best training for being a manager was being a father because of the need to juggle so many things, be fair and to listen.
The outgoing chief said the fundamentals of the broking world have not changed in that it is still a people business.
Look for the rainbow
Richardson believes the role of the broker will become more technical, essential and complicated over the next three to five years with the incoming world of carbon credits.
He said there are already charterers that will not take the least expensive vessel but will take the cheapest ship with the best carbon footprint.
His advice to those brokers just starting out in the business?
"You need tenacity. You need to be there always. You need to make your client your life and it is not a job ... broking is a way of life," he said.
"The lows are very long and very deep but the highs are fantastic, so you have to have the ability to look beyond the current low and there is a rainbow."