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Firm Culture

Q&A with Ben Dancy15 April 2019

Ben Dancy was a senior associate in the firm’s Asset Finance group from 2011 to 2018.

Ben spent four years in the London office before moving out to Dubai in 2014 with Andrew Baird to establish the WFW Middle East office. Ben left the firm in 2018 and is now a Projects Director at Navig8, a fully integrated provider of ship management services and the world’s largest independent pool and commercial management company.

Q: Tell us a bit about Navig8 and your role?

A: Navig8’s main lines of business comprise ship ownership, ship management, asset management and bunker trading. Navig8 currently has 170 ships under commercial management – chemical and product tankers – across a series of 13 pools (a pool is a group of ships under common commercial management which is managed by Navig8 in its capacity as pool manager). I am in a non-legal role and work in the projects team – comprising five people working between London, New York and Singapore. The two principal elements of my job are (i) sourcing and implementing time charter transactions and (ii) marketing the pools.

Q: What is a typical day? Do you miss anything about working in private practice?

A: A typical day would include a lot of time on the phone to brokers trying to get a handle on where the market is and gauge Owners’ appetite to fix their ships on time charters to Navig8. We also have a lot of daily meetings with the in-house charterers to ensure they would be happy to manage and market the ships that the projects team is procuring for time charter. As well as being on the phone a lot there are also many external meetings as well as the need to travel. It is a largely relationship-driven industry, so it has been important for me to be on the road since my arrival to meet with all our existing clients and prospective clients. As a lawyer in private practice the role maybe felt a little more regimented and structured which in some ways was nice but I really do enjoy the variety and pace of my current role. The working day is shorter but it is more action-packed. That being said I do miss those 09.30 starts.

Q: What motivates you?

A: I think being in an external role and interfacing with clients on a regular basis helps me through the day the most! I enjoy the cut and thrust of being in a trader-like environment at Navig8 and genuinely no two days are the same.

Q: How is Navig8 innovative?

A: Whether it is building a bunker trading company so that our ships can benefit from annual bunker savings of 5-10% or installing data collection equipment on all our ships to help optimise performance and prevent hull fouling, Navig8 is always looking to stay ahead of the curve and be a ‘first-mover.’ We have also been somewhat of a pioneer in terms of investment in scrubber technology and have 16 ships delivering pre-2020 all scrubber fitted. We have also acquired a controlling stake in a scrubber manufacturing company called FMSI which serves to design and deliver scrubbers to other ship owners so that they can continue to burn high sulphur fuel following the implementation of the IMO 2020 regulations.

Q: What is the best thing you ever did, career-wise?

A: Can I say leaving law? Probably not… The best decision for me was going to Dubai with Andrew and being part of an international office from the beginning.

Q: What advice would you give to people setting out on their careers?

A: I think there are people far more qualified than me to impart quality career advice but one thing I would advise is build your personal network as quickly as possible. You are never too junior to start meeting people and leaving an impression and you never know when you may need to lean on those contacts down the line.

Q: How do you think the training and experience you gained at the firm has helped you?

A: The training I received at the firm has undoubtedly stood me in good stead in my current role. The fact that I am legally trained definitely gives me a cutting edge and allows me to be exposed to more high level deals and meetings than I would ordinarily expect to be a part of.

Q: Who do you keep in touch with at the firm?

A: Andrew Baird, Michael Savva, George Macheras and Ida Marie Oedegaard. Robin Pennal calls me an awkward amount but I try not to answer.

Q: How would you describe the culture of our firm?

A: All in all I think this is one of the firm’s greatest selling points. I would suggest that law firms can often be tricky places to work in but WFW has a very friendly working culture, which is supported by a network of close-knit international offices.

Q: What do you do to relax?

A: The usual things – sports, surfing (been once) and going to the theatre. I have recently taken up cooking but also been advised to proceed no further.

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