There was a sense of Freight Investor Services having come full circle by celebrating 21 years in business in Shanghai.

The company, the world’s biggest broker of forward freight agreements, set up its office in China in 2008 at the height of the financial crash.

In its own words, FIS describes opening the Shanghai office as a “bold step”, given that the freight market at that time was in the midst of a downward spiral, in which it would lose over 95% of its value and crash down by highs of more than $200,000 per day.

This came as FIS launched its innovative matching system to help prevent freight market defaults.

How things change. Just over a week after FIS returned to the Pearl of the Orient for a celebratory party on 21 November, the FFA market saw record-breaking cleared volumes on capesize contracts and options on the back of an almighty rally in the physical market.

FIS staff, clients and friends gathered for a seminar and dinner event at the Peninsula Hotel. Topics for discussion ranged from iron ore, freight, battery metals, fuel oil, coking coal and even carbon emissions. John Banaszkiewicz, chief executive of FIS, was joined at the party by his wife Tracey, who presented prizes to raffle winners.

Attendees also reflected on the ways that FIS’ business has evolved over the past 21 years, expanding beyond the realm of just freight derivatives.

The Shanghai office is a key base for FIS’ battery metals business and the sector was well represented at the party. FIS launched cleared battery metal futures contracts in December 2020 and today holds the biggest brokered market share in the cobalt market, which has become the leading battery-metal futures contract worldwide.

In a fast-changing marketplace for commodity derivatives, it will be interesting to see just how FIS will have changed by the next time it comes to celebrate another milestone in Shanghai.