That's the dream job you might say, and who occupies such a job? A magician? A fortune teller? Let's get serious though, perhaps it's a private banker, an accountant or family office.
One thing that Myth vs Reality Circle of Luxury Professionals is about, is adding that extra spice to get professionals engaged and move away from the dry definitions of what they do. Everything about the circle is immersive, aimed to entertain while show a new angle to something we have known as something else.
Reading the definition above, doesn't it just intrigue you to want to find out more or even, do that job?!
So without further ado, let's unveil the curtain and welcome Viktoria Zentai on stage to share what she meant.
But first can you guess what the job is?
1. Accounting's history can be traced back thousands of years to the cradle of civilisation in Mesopotamia and is said to have developed alongside writing, counting and money. The early Egyptians and Babylonians created auditing systems, while the Romans collated detailed financial information. So why is it that accountants have a reputation as being so “boring”? Let’s bust some myths around it!
Being responsible for money is a big weight and comes with lots of additional responsibilities and mostly requires discretion. I think being “fun” exposes people so accountants like to keep it to themselves. Also, once you work with numbers you realise that working with numbers is easier than with people. Numbers don’t change their mind; they never lie and they are reliable 😊
But the myth is that it isn’t a requirement for accountants to be “nerds”. Accountants are just human, some like music, or dancing or martial arts or fine food and extreme sports or all of the above.
When accountants are at work, they have to concentrate and they don’t seem to be fun. One of the difficulties of working with numbers, is that they tell you if something went wrong, but they won’t tell you where and how. You also don’t want to make mistakes as it will cost someone money.
But what most don’t see is that accounting can be pretty creative. Once you have the data (the boring bit is to collect it…) you start to see the story behind it. It is like any normal book, but this one is written with numbers… that is why we call it books 😊
My other profession is translator. Numbers are just another language for me.
2. At the inaugural Myth vs Reality event you described what you do as: “I am paid to spend lots of money and predict the future” - how do you think accountancy and yachting can be made more “sexy” like this more?
I have noticed that once I meet new people and asked about my work, if I say that I am an accountant they make a polite but awkward smile, excuse themselves and walk away…
My every day work consists of financial management including budgeting and cash flow management.
To create a budget, you need a crystal ball. For half of my questions the answer is “how do you want us to know what will happen next year”.
Well… I need to put a number on the “it is impossible to say in advance” therefore I predict the future.
My biggest achievement so far was to be 0.08% percent accurate for a quarter, with actual spending being within budget on a 3.2 million scale including shipyard works. It’s like winning a bet predicting all scores of a football world cup.
The other part of my job is to settle the expenses which require lots of payments. Because of the nature of yachting, bills tend to be higher than most people can imagine. I can’t say details, but most of my days I am just spending lots of money (as per budget of course). Since it is my job, I am paid to spend lots of money 😊
3. What are some of the hidden realities of budgets for yachts that people do not necessarily know about?
I think there are some common practices in the industry which I don’t find justified after my 10-year experience as an accountant for yachts.
10% rule for the operational budget – one of the most common ways to estimate the operational cost of a yacht would be 10% of the value of the vessel. My experience proved this simply a theory. The older a vessel gets, the lower its value become but the higher the expenses will go. I don’t see the proportion so clean cut. Then what we call “operational cost” is tricky. One can argue that they only meant for this and that part of the expenses. But it is like to say your car will only need petrol… Obviously not.
Another one is the magic trick “to save money – go commercial”. Yachting has changed a lot and operating a vessel commercially isn’t just a piece of paper. It requires lots of commitment from the owners and whilst it can make up for an important portion of the operating costs it also adds in more. Not only costs but also liabilities and obligations. Owners need to understand all implications not just the “fun facts”.
Planning is often seen as an option. Especially for winter works. As much as I need to use my Christal ball, owners have to be prepared to go deep in their pockets if they take planning too light hearted.
Crew retention: crew is a very important part of the vessel as the condition of the yacht and the quality of the time spent on board depend on them. Saving on the crew have higher costs than one could calculate.
In essence I think accountants can put any numbers in a budget as per the owner’s request. That doesn’t make the budget correct or realistic. It only puts pressure on the crew, on the management and ultimately on the cash flow which can affect the financial situation of the owners themselves. In my experience, it is possible to create a reliable budget if figures are based on educated projections.
4. It has been estimated that over 75% of accountants are introverts. Knowing you personally, I know that you don’t fall into this category - why is it that accountants and introverts seem to be a match in “numeric” heaven?
I have given a hint of answer to that previously. Introverts go well with the role as they are discrete which is an absolute must when dealing with confidential information.
They will be also less vulnerable to corruption or blackmailing as they are harder to get to.
Also, if you enjoy working on your own, working with numbers is in fact an easy choice for those who find it hard to work with other people. Numbers don’t judge you; they don’t make comments, you don’t need to please them…Etc. Numbers are just numbers.
Personally, I didn’t imagine myself working with numbers at all. Indeed, I even said that this will be the job I will never do. But accounting has a fun side when you like riddles, and a creative side when you analyse the data and a sexy side when you deal with finance. To my greatest surprise, I grew into liking it very quickly.
Besides, who would argue with the accountant?
5. So apparently bubble gum was invited by an accountant - what is your next thing that the world should keep an eye out for?
For those who know me well, it could be anything, and it can make a bigger boom than a bubble gum.
I have several projects always on my plate, from writing fictions, to branding wines, teaching or to develop software.
I enjoy the journey and my superpower is curiosity. I am currently very invested in developing some business around wine and also to find areas of the yachting industry which are lacking transfer of information but crucial needing it (shore to ship or ship to shore).
6. Income tax was originally introduced as a temporary measure to finance war against France. Are you surprised by this and what in your eyes are the things UHNWI should be wary of when it comes to taxes and France now that we evoked the two?
Yes, I am surprised. I thought that tax was invented by France. They have definitely taken their revenge… Lol. France is a very social country which gives and takes a lot to maintain a certain minimum life standard and equalities.
It is a country where being wealthy is mostly perceived as being dishonest and wealth is the fruit of something not honourable. Laws protect the weak, take from the rich and give to the poor. You either like it or you hate it, but change isn’t going to come anytime soon, if ever at all, to that general perception.
That said, from tax and customs perspective, France isn’t an exception and most Med countries are difficult. To probably the biggest surprise to most, France have created many facilities for the yachting industry which on the contrary makes it not only an attractive but almost the only country where you can import a yacht without actually paying for the VAT on the hull on arrival (by that I mean not having to deposit funds to the authorities), allowing entry and access to the EU waters.
Also, commercial activity for privately registered non-EU vessels flying under non-European flags accepting owners to charter their yachts for a certain proportion of the operations (known as Yacht Engaged in Trade or YET) is also accepted under certain conditions. This isn’t the case in many other Med countries being a lot stricter on commercial (Charter) rules.
More than taxes, UHNWI must be aware of social obligation when employing crew who have chosen France as their country of residency or are French citizens.
However, French authorities are strict and don’t like being fooled around, so my advice is always to play by the rules and know the rules very well to stay within the lines. There are many customs and VAT agents specialised to the yachting industry available to give the right guidance.
7. Mick Jagger and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin were both pursuing accounting before their music careers took off. There’s a myth that once an accountant, always an accountant applies, but clearly not given this fact. What do you want to do when you “grow up” and why? Does your accounting background mean that you can follow a new path or are you “doomed “ to accounting forever and ever more?
I think that anyone who is interested in business is better off having a strong accounting background.
Yes, accounting helps to understand the potential risks and prepare for those. Failing isn’t a bad thing and teaches you a lot, but jumping with a parashoot defiantly helps. Calculated risk leaves you more freedom to reach further. Again yes, once you have understood that logic, you can’t unsee it.
When I grow up, I will have a small hotel by a nice windy beach with a kite surf school, a jazz bar and I will spend my free time writing books... In the meantime, I will do my best to make the most out of my experience and learn as much as possible as I love the journey to reach beyond my limits.
8. Purser vs accountant - what’s the difference, what’s the better role and why?
Pursers know yachting from the inside, accountant know yachting from the outside. A purser is an administrator and financial manager on board whose experience is mostly extending to the activities on board. An accountant provides the framework for the financial operations not only to the vessel but to the owning entity from a corporate point of view. These roles are complementary and as much as there are many transferrable skills, you need both after a certain size of vessel. You can run a boat without a purser up to 65 M, but you can’t own a boat without an accountant.
I don’t think you could say which is a better role as it depends on your aspirations. I have realised that each side tend to see only the better things the other have without understanding the realities.
Pursers are very well-paid comparing to on-shore accountants with often rotational positions (working only part of the year and enjoying the rest of their free time). Also, since only big vessels need pursers, usually these vessels are roaming the 7 seas which seems amazing from the office.
Accountants have a less glamours life, but with the advantage of being close to the loved ones and having opportunities to grow outside of the yachting industry.
It is a choice of a lifestyle. Living on board has different challenges than the every day grind.
However, it is easier to move ship to shore for pursers and to take on a yacht accountant position than the other way around.
9. Who’s the human behind ASAP Yachts and what strengths do you possess that no other of your competitor has?
Well, there are so many ways to define a person. I am proud to be very curious, to be a quick learner, speaking languages (4 fluently, and 3 others at different levels) and being multi-cultural. I like to keep an open mind for past future and present: learn from the more experienced, listen to the future generation and seize the opportunity available today.
As I mentioned earlier, I also possess a crystal ball 😊. I have a very analytic but also creative mind which helps me to imagine scenarios further and translate them to numbers. This results in accurate budgets (around 1% more than once) for example.
ASAP is a young company taking its marks. The core of my business is to assist commercial vessels to setup the financial infrastructure to handle charter guests advanced provisioning allowances (APA), but also to consult businesses in the industry and UHNWI with anything yacht accounting related.
My aim is to build bridges where there aren’t any and to bring a 360° vision of the industry to everyone. I love helping others and share knowledge with the objective to bring things ahead.
I have a big smile! And I give it for free. I love to fight my challenges with a positive attitude but with tenacity. Failing is ok, giving up isn’t an option.
I am finding new ways to use my superpowers to create new and useful services.
Thank you to Viktoria and for those who are interested to connect, Viktoria is a founding Myth vs Reality Circle professional. You can join and exchange with her and other like-minded people by joining.