Spotlight: Aleco Keusseoglou

Aleco Keusseoglou

Passionate water skier actively contributing to the positive development of the Principality of Monaco.

Aleco Keusseoglou
Aleco Keusseoglou

Growing up in the Principality of Monaco, Aleco Keusseoglou is a multitalented businessman, advisor of the Monégasque government, and also the founder of the Monaco Waterski Federation.

Besides being the Co-Founder and President of the Board of Directors of 2PM Monaco, and a long-term resident, Aleco Keusseoglou holds some of the highly important roles in the Principality of Monaco. He is a state-appointed Board Member of the SBM; the President of SEPM, a company owned by the Government of Monaco, which manages the Ports of Monaco; member of the Board of Directors of the Yacht Club of Monaco; President of the Commission Monaco Destination within the Strategic Attractiveness Committee and President of the F.M.S.N.

Aleco was born into a Greek family, living in Italy with an international upbringing.

Your parents were Greek, the family was living in Italy, and you were born in Switzerland. Tell us more about this.

“When my mother was expecting me, we were living in Italy, but my parents wanted me to be born in Switzerland because at that time it was easier to get the Swiss passport if you were born and have spent some years there. I remember, in 1959 it was still the cold war and my parents were keen to provide a better opportunity for me. So that’s why I was born there,” – starts Aleco. 

After the birth of Aleco, the family returned to Genova, Italy, where the office of their cruising company, the Sun Lines Cruises was based.

The family also owned a 30 meters long motorsailer berthing in Genova. When there was no school, Aleco spent every time on the boat.

“During school holidays, I was always on board. I was basically living there 4-5 months a year. I loved it as a child, it was fantastic.”

The change came when Aleco turned twelve years old.

Formed in 1970, the Red Brigades, a far-left armed organisation and guerrilla group based in Italy kidnapped children to finance their activities from the ransoms. The organisation attained notoriety in the 1970s with its violent acts of sabotage, bank robberies, kidnappings, and murders. They were also responsible for the abduction and murder of former Prime Minister Aldo Moro.

In 1972, they found a big cove of the Red Brigades in Genova, the city where Aleco and his wealthy Greek family lived. When the news of the local Red Brigades cells arose, the family decided to immediately relocate to the Principality of Monaco.

“I remember we moved to Monaco for security reasons. My father who was Greek loved to live in Italy, but he always told me safety is first, so that’s why we moved to the Principality in less than 3 months.”

What is your earliest memory of Monaco?

“When we arrived in Monaco it was all new for me because we left behind all that was part of my life in Italy. As a child, I could easily adapt to the new environment, but back then Monaco was totally different. There were not so many international people around and the community was smaller,” – remembers Aleco.

Finishing his primary school in Monaco, he went to boarding school in Switzerland and then to Williams College in the USA. Williams College is known as a liberal art college, Aleco however graduated in economics.

In his last year at the university, Aleco who speaks five languages, French, English, Italian, Greek, and Spanish was interviewed by a few banks and as a result, got many job offers.

“I did not want to work in the family business, I wanted to work by my own. I was eager to discover all the opportunities lying in front of me.”

However, life challenged Aleco with another unexpected obstacle, as his father was getting sick and the family business which was at that time a cruise line business, needed Aleco to step in.

“My father really needed me in the family business and I did not have the courage to say no to him. So, I rejected my other job offers and turned my attention towards the family business. At the time, I had a base in Monaco, but I was living in Greece and the States.”

Sun Lines Cruises was the last family-owned cruise line company in the whole world and Aleco quickly realised a problem with it. Operating cruise lines is a very capital intensive business, where one continuously needs to build new cruise liners to be competitive. At that time, all the giants were entering the market with much easier access to large capitals.

“I told my family that there is no way in the world that we can compare with these giants, and either we ally with someone or sell the business. It took a while to convince them.”

Finally, driven by Aleco’s idea the family merged with another company in Greece and then brought it public in NASDAQ in 1998. Two years later, the family proceeded with the selling of the company and exited from the cruise line business.

Did you manage to keep your passion for yachting?

“My passion is still there for yachting. It has always been there. Growing up in a cruise line operator family, I spent all my free time and vacations on ships.”

Do you prefer sailing boats or yachts?

“I love sailing boats but to have a sailing boat one needs time, which I still don’t have,” – laughs Aleco.

In 2003, Aleco opened a company office for EIM (Monaco) S.A.M. which was a hedge fund company with a license to advisory services for institutional clients. Their main clients were financial institutions such as banks, family offices, and insurance companies. This led him to another realisation.

“The level of banking was already excellent in the Principality of Monaco, but I realised that there were no independent asset management companies in Monaco.”

Aleco Keusseoglou
Aleco Keusseoglou on the cover of the Living in Monaco magazine

What do you think, what was the reason for this in a country that primarily caters to the wealthy?

“The reason for this is that the government requested all asset management companies to be 51% owned by a bank. If you are an asset management company with a majority of the shares owned by a bank, then more likely your portfolio will be built up by the products of that bank. This is not always an ideal diversification for clients.”

This led to 2PM Monaco SAM which you have founded in 2006.

“Yes, my partners and I convinced the government to allow us to open an independent asset management company. Naturally, we had a financial institution as a co-owner but not with the majority of shares. We opened 2PM Monaco on May 01, 2006, an independent asset management company that does personalised portfolios for each of their clients. It was different from all the other service providers.”

The name 2PM stands for Personalised Portfolio Management (PPM).

Was it difficult to establish your market share among the already existing players?

“It was difficult at the beginning to make the banks understand that we are not competitors. We are not there to steal their clients but actually to bring new clients to them. We need the banks to have a depository service for our clients so the goal was to work hand in hand with the financial institutions.”

2PM Monaco was a pioneer back then and now over 15 years later, most of the local banks have opened an asset management department. They understood the necessity of a personalised portfolio management as a very important aspect in the financial world of Monaco.

You started your company, 2PM Monaco just two years prior to the global financial crisis. How did this affect your business?

“Indeed, when we opened back in 2006 with a very minimal, 176 million Euro under management, we were just a tiny drop in the ocean. Two years later, the financial crisis hit in but because of our investments methodology, our clients stayed with us, and thanks to their trust and loyalty, we kept growing. Today, we have an office in Monaco, Geneva, and Luxembourg and we manage 1.2 billion Euros.”

Why is it good for a bank to work together with an independent asset manager?

“Just because a separate asset manager can bring new clients to the bank who otherwise would not be there. What an asset management company can offer is quite different from what a bank can. Banks are usually not equipped to do the type of services that we offer. So we work hand in hand with them.”

You are a state-appointed Board Member of SBM. What’s your task in it?

“I am a government-appointed board member of the SBM group. As the government is the major shareholder of SBM, there are four government-appointed members. Our task is to make sure that the company operates well and in the interest of Monaco.”

Aleco is also involved in the developments of the Ports of Monaco, and he became the President of the Société d’Exploitation des Ports de Monaco (SEPM) in 2004 after H.S.H. Prince Rainier III personally asked him to take over the presidency.

“Prince Rainier shared with me his vision to protect Monaco’s ports with the creation of a seawall. The company had to be developed into a more dynamic and commercial one.”

Under the leadership of Aleco, the turnover and profit of the ports of Monaco exploded. However, it is now a decade that Ports of Monaco runs with an occupancy rate of 98% on their berth capacity, which constantly creates major challenges.

To put this in perspective, there are 40 berth places in the Port Hercule dedicated for yachts over 30 meters. However, yearly 160 yachts of this size that belong to Monaco residents have to be juggled on these berths. Furthermore yachts coming from abroad to spend a few days in Monaco are not even included in this number.

This creates a serious task to accommodate everyone’s requests.

“We knew that from the point of the attractiveness of Monaco, we will be needing some major developments in the ports. So, six years ago we made the decision to invest abroad to find additional berths near Monaco.”

In general, Monégasque nationals and residents can apply to register a boat under the Monégasque Flag.

The Principality of Monaco has two primary requirements:

All vessels under the Monégasque flag must show their name and the word “MONACO” on the stern, to the exclusion of any other wording.

Owners of yachts who wish to appoint a captain and/or a crew must notify the Department of Maritime Affairs.

The vessel registration is quite simple in Monaco once you have the invoice to prove ownership, photos from all sides of the vessel and the necessary certificates that accompany it. The application must then be submitted to the Department of Maritime Affairs in Monaco.

An annual naturalisation fee is payable for all boats under the Monégasque flag. Payment must be made within a month from the date of the bill being sent by the Department of Maritime Affairs to obtain the annual stamp. This stamp is essential, as without it the naturalisation is not fully valid.

On the insurance side, the yacht, crew, and all passengers must be properly insured in the event of an accident, incident, or liability issue.

One of the misconceptions with yacht registration comes in regards to the moorings. It is highly important to consider that granting permission to navigate under the Monégasque flag does not automatically include the allocation of a mooring in one of the Principality’s ports.

The general rule is based on a first come first serve basis. For this reason, even long-term residents find it impossible to get a mooring space in one of the Monaco ports. The waiting list can be as long as 10 years, and there is no place for shortcuts.

This rule is very strict, moorings are not transferable even to a new ship belonging to an owner who already has a mooring in the port, or subsequently to a new owner of a ship that is already moored in Monaco.

How big is the waiting list?

“In Monaco, there is a long waiting list. If today someone comes with a yacht over 35 meters and wants a berth space in Monaco, there is no way in the world that we can offer it to them. There is a waiting list and that’s why it is so important to find additional berth spaces nearby for the residents.”

With more and more high-net-worth individuals moving to Monaco, it was indispensable to look for solutions. Currently, roughly 1 in 4 high-net-worth residents own a yacht and consequently, they need a berth.

As a first step, the Ports of Monaco took advantage of the opportunity to buy the port of Ventimiglia which is only 8 nautical miles away from Monaco.

“The concession was very attractive because the duration was 85 years. This is extremely long compared to France where concessions do not last longer than 35 years. It was a very interesting opportunity for us.

Also, the construction of the port was not finished, so we had the opportunity to redesign it exactly the way we wanted to.”

The new port, called Cala del Forte is an exquisite, brand new, state-of-the-art marina, protected naturally from the elements and with strictly monitored access from the land. It is a perfect sister marina to the neighbouring Port Hercule and Port of Fontvieille. 

Monaco Ports and their team brought their extensive experiences to the development of this marina with a vision to develop something unique that holds to their values of security, integrity, service, and sustainability. 

Finishing its development, the Ports of Monaco gained 40 additional berths for yachts of 35 meters, so they doubled the capacity of the berths for superyachts.

The Cala del Forte port has a capacity of up to 178 ships in total. It is amongst the most advanced, best-equipped, and secure ports on the Mediterranean while also holding the title of the longest concession in the Mediterranean with a duration spanning until 2094. 

Interestingly, the iconic sailing yacht Tuiga, flagship of the Yacht Club de Monaco, was the very first to dock at the brand new Molo d’Onore berth. The entry of Tuiga into Cala del Forte marks a historic and symbolic moment in view of the marina’s official inauguration.

Since it is not a public port, they also sell the concession of the berth to the owners for 40 years, which becomes a similar investment to any property. For the buyer, this becomes an asset, something that revalues and that they can re-sell again. So it is quite an interesting and valueable opportunity.

As an added feature, Monaco introduced a high-speed shuttle service that operates between Port Hercule and Cala del Forte. The regular maritime transfers with the Monaco One shuttle allow owners and their guests swift and exclusive access to the Principality through a short, 15 minutes trip.

Do you plan to open other ports as well in the near future?

“We are looking at many other opportunities that make sense for Monaco. Either from an operations point of view or purely because of marketing and image. For instance, three years ago we won the concession of the port of Rome but we did not have the opportunity to start to work on it yet because we had a lot of legal obstacles that we had to first sort out. We are hopeful that all of that will be lifted this year and we can start the works. It is not an operational investment, it is more a marketing and image one.

We are looking at the potential project of renovating the port of San Remo, which is again not too far from Monaco. This can be a combination of operational and marketing image for Monaco.”

How about the port of Cap d’Ail?

“We are keen to win the concession of the port of Cap d’Ail from an operational investment point, as the current concession will end in 2027. The metropole of Nice will start this tender and we are very much looking forward to bidding on this neighbourhood port.”

How would you describe the typical berth demands of various boats, sailing boats, yachts, and superyachts in these ports?

“The typical demand is more for motorboats than sailing yachts. We have demands from 35-70 meters and then for mega yachts of 130-150 meters.”

To cope with the increasing demand, one of the changes that the Ports of Monaco implemented is to limit the amount of time cruise liners can stay in the outside jet of Port Hercules. It is now limited from April to November 15th, allowing them to host mega yachts for the winter season. 

They are also working to transfer the electricity to a form that can be plugged into the mega yachts. By the end of 2022, Ports of Monaco plans to equip the floating jetty with complete electricity solutions for the mega yachts.

What do you think, why are there fewer sailing boats in Monaco?

“My guess is because the wind conditions are not favourable for sailing because the region is not particularly adequate for sailing boats. Also, it takes a lot of time on a sailing boat just to get to St Tropez.”

Do you think there will be more yachts with Monaco flags in the future?

“As the regulations are today, the Monaco flag is not a very efficient one for bigger yachts because of the constraints that one has with the nationality of the crew as well as the costs of the social security fees for that crew.”

Monaco can be an ideal destination for yacht registration for small vessels with limited crew members, however, for large superyachts, the main consideration is the status symbol. It can be concluded that registering a superyacht in Monaco is a question of prestige.

If one decides to choose the Monaco flag for yacht registration, pays the VAT, and decides to accept the employment through the Monaco Employment Office, they will still be faced with certain restrictions. One of these restrictions is the distance that the superyacht can travel. Due to the agreement between Monaco and France, from 1963, no Monaco flagged vessel can go further than what the France flag authorises. This is another point where the Monégasque legislations merge with the French one.

Do you think it would be important to change this?

“The flag is not a key issue for Monaco because it is very efficient for small vessels. I don’t see the necessity of changing that for the mega yachts,” – concludes Aleco.

What has been the biggest challenge so far in your career?

“I guess the biggest challenge has been to always try to learn and adapt in the most efficient way possible. To improve my knowledge and skills to the new situations that were put in front of me. For example, with the cruise line, I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge. I was a bit new to the asset management area and the ports, so I had to broaden my knowledge.”

Life has also forced you to take over the family business at a young age. How did this change your life?

“It certainly helped me not to repeat the same mistakes. Being in a family business is much more difficult than most people think. You have to be respected by the people you work with and you have to be twice as good, so people can say you actually know your stuff and you are not just the son of the boss. This is tough and you have to earn respect.”

Based on your opinion, what is the key element of a successful business?

“I have always been a good manager of people and in all these activities I could not achieve these things alone, without the people around me. We always had a great team of people. This is the most important challenge, to be able to choose the right people to work with.”

Was it easy to oversee SBM as a non-Monégasque back then?

“Let me start by saying that it was a great honour to be appointed by H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco and I will always be thanking his trust in me. 

During all these years, I tried to do my best for SBM. It is a difficult company to manage but it has great potential. We have done great things, but it is very difficult to do things quickly because it’s a slow mountain to move.”

Where do you see the development for SBM?

“As I see it, for SBM to develop, we need to open up or focus outside Monaco. Obviously, we have a few projects inside the Principality, but the future lies in the utilisation of our heritage and the promotion of the knowledge of SBM outside Monaco.”

You became a Monégasque citizen in 2008. What does being Monégasque mean to you?

“I guess the reason why I applied for the Monégasque citizenship is that although my background was predominantly Greek and Italian, Monaco has always been my home, this is where my roots and childhood friends are. I always knew that the rest of my life will be in Monaco and I wanted to give back as much as I could to it. I believe that becoming Monégasque was the right thing to do. Thank God, I was accepted and am very proud to become one of them.”

In private life, Aleco is a passionate water skiing professional with remarkable results in the international water ski scene. He competed in the European and the World Championship. Aleco’s personal best result is 5th place in the European Championship in 2006, most of the time he has been in the top 10.

“It is more than a passion for me. It is my life-saving buoy. I am absolutely crazy about water skiing.”

How did this sport come to your life?

“I had a brother who was 18 years older than me and he was in the Italian water skiing team in the 1950s and 1960s,” – continues Aleco. – “When I was only four years old, he already put me on the skis. He successfully transferred his passion over to me which is something that I truly enjoy even today. All my free time is spent either training or competing. My wife and son have the same passion. It is truly a family passion. I try to keep this passion as much and as long as I can.”

Once he became Monégasque, Aleco founded the Monaco Waterskiing Federation in 2008. It is a small federation, however, one that has done some very interesting things. 

For this year, the federations also organised the annual congress for all the older water skiing federations in Europe.

Where do you see the future of water skiing in Monaco?

“We have two young athletes who are competing for Monaco. One is my son,” – he smiles proudly – “and the other is the son of the mayor. In the senior division, we have three athletes who are competing, including myself as well. The number of competing athletes is quite respectable for our size as a federation.”

How do they attract the next generation to water skiing?

“One of the challenges for all federations is to re-design the sport so it can be more accessible and interesting for kids. We are thinking about more activities, although, similarly to many small associations, we have a lack of funds compared to the number of things that we could do.”

Do you plan any activities through the local schools?

“I would love to bring the children from the local schools to try this sport out, as well as to explain to the parents how children can benefit from water skiing. But the challenge is to find parents who are willing to bring their kids to the lake and try it out. We train about an hour from Monaco in a lake at Roquebrune-sur-Argens, France and each training takes a significant time of travel.”

Do you have any other hobbies?

“No, because I do not have the time to do anything else. My time is limited.”

On a final note, can you recommend any good Greek restaurant in the area?

“In the 1980s, there was a very famous Greek restaurant in Monaco, but at the time there was not enough clientele. Now, we have the predominantly greek GAIA. The food is excellent and the service is very good. Monaco has also changed completely so this can support these kinds of restaurants.”

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