Stanko Jekov is ringing the changes at Simpson Spence Young (SSY) after taking over as managing partner of the global shipbroker at the start of the year.
Dry cargo specialist Jekov told TradeWinds that he plans to continue expanding and modernising the organisation. He succeeds Mark Richardson, who has retired.
“SSY is a fantastic company with a lot of history,” Jekov said. “What I want to do about it is to take it forward.”
Much of this will be about culture. Jekov will be known as managing partner, rather than chairman of the group. He plans to sit on the trading floor with the rest of his staff and will remain head of SSY’s dry cargo division — a position he has held since 2016.
“I didn’t want to be the guy in the corner office who sits on his own,” he said. “I’ve always been very involved in the business ... I want to be out there with the guys, driving the business forward.
“We want to get away from this top-down approach. And we have some exceptional talent in this company. It’s very important for us to promote the culture and that excellence within the firm.”
In the meantime, Jekov said he plans to focus on looking at ways to expand the group beyond its 21 offices worldwide, as well as branching out into new markets.
“By nature, I have been quite expansive, maybe not aggressive but quite ambitious, call it that,” Jekov said. “For dry cargo, we opened seven offices in six years.”
SSY will look to strengthen key offices with “growth potential” in areas such as Geneva, North America and Dubai, which Jekov said has “become a hub, especially in the last 24 months”.
He added that this will entail acquiring other businesses as well as making new hires.
It also means finding ways to facilitate and support the big ambitions of SSY staff, among whom Jekov perceives an appetite for growth that is “bigger than before”.
“I want us to be a company which attracts talent and promotes or allows people to develop and to grow in this company, and for people to see that they have a future,” he said.
“I think when you start putting a ceiling on brokers especially, that’s when you can actually lose brokers. We have to give them an environment for growth — and I think that’s what we have today.”
He speaks as one who knows, having started at SSY as a 20-year-old trainee and worked his way through the ranks to the very top over the following 21 years.
Jekov said six new partners started in their new positions at the beginning of this year across Asia and Europe — “six individuals who are at the forefront of their business”.
Bulgaria-born Jekov moved to Norway as a child, following
his father’s job at a Scandinavian-Bulgarian shipping company.
He studied maritime business with maritime law at Plymouth University in the UK before first serving a summer internship with SSY in 2001. He joined the company the following year, focusing on the handysize and supramax bulker market.
Jekov became a partner at SSY in 2010 at the age of 28 and took over as head of dry cargo in 2016.
He will be SSY’s first foreign-born leader since the company was founded in London in 1880. He speaks Bulgarian, English, Russian and German.
Outside of shipping, Jekov enjoys spending time with his wife and young daughter.
“I like to play golf but, you know, it’s when I have time,” he said.
“We travel a fair bit. My wife’s Norwegian, I also grew up in Norway, so we spend a bit of time in Norway, visiting the grandparents.”
The new promotions will reduce the average age of partners at SSY to 38 years old from the previous 42.
But there are still no women among their number, something that Jekov hopes will change.
But growth at SSY — for individual brokers and for the wider organisation — comes at a time when competitive shipbroking is undergoing new pressures and changes.
“I think, going forward, size will matter,” Jekov said. “The broader the spectrum of services you have, I think the more important that’s going to be in the future.
“I think customers in general expect more from the brokers today, not just fixing a ship from A to B and doing a single transaction. They require the research, they require a lot of background services, finance department — everything — and we must have the full spectrum of services.”
As this new year gets underway, Jekov plans to keep looking for growth opportunities, hinting that more news could be on the way soon.
“Apart from these acquisitions and the expansions that we want to do, I want this to be a good place to work,” he said. “Broking — and also our business — is about word of mouth. When people hear ‘SSY, they’re doing well, it’s a good place to be’, it also attracts more people.
“We want to be a modern company, a fun company, somewhere where people see there’s a future.”