Why Ireland Deserves Its Place as a Global Leader in the Aviation Sector
Ireland’s aviation finance and leasing sector was a 'disruptive' industry in Ireland long before the term was even coined. That’s according to Catherine Duffy, finance partner and head of aviation and transport finance at A&L Goodbody.
Duffy, who has worked in aviation finance for almost three decades, said the genesis of the aviation leasing industry lay with Tony Ryan and the formation of GPA in the 1970s, the first aviation leasing company in the world.
“It embodied a culture of innovation that has continued to evolve since then to make Ireland the global centre for aviation finance and leasing that it is today.” she said.
“Aviation leasing is a real Irish business. It started in Ireland and has grown and developed over the decades. It’s a huge employer of people, not just by leasing companies themselves, but in all the support industries around it, including legal and financial services. It is an industry to be proud of."
"When GPA got into difficulty in the early 1990s, many of its highly skilled workforce went to work in the aviation sector abroad,” she added. “In the early to mid-2000s as US and other international leasing companies chose Ireland as their leasing base, a lot of the former GPA workforce – the Irish diaspora – returned home to head up those businesses here."
“So the real expertise in the aviation industry is here, and it is Irish.”
Duffy said there was still a need to promote the achievements of the aviation sector in Ireland and to support the industry here to retain and grow Ireland's place as a global leader in the sector. The size and importance of the sector in Ireland remains relatively unknown to those outside of the industry.
“When I tell people that I work in aviation, they think I’m mad.” she said. “People say, ‘Ireland, aviation, really?’ and yet it’s a significant industry here and a global centre for the sector. We are facing increased competition from the likes of Hong Kong, Singapore and so on, but we still lead the way. We work hard to stay ahead, constantly innovating and bringing new companies and structures to the market."
“We have many key strengths. Aside from the highly skilled and experienced workforce, we are a common law jurisdiction located in Europe; we are the home of the Cape Town International Register for interests in aircraft; and we have a wide double taxation treaty network facilitating efficient finance and re-marketing of aircraft."
"The IDA works hard to encourage industry to locate in Ireland. In addition, the government has been very proactive and responsive to the needs of the industry. Despite all the other competition from other jurisdictions we have held our own and continue to hold our own."
“I’m confident we will stay ahead because we are flexible and adaptable and very commercially driven in our outlook and approach. Ireland has a ‘can do’ approach and all of the elements that are needed to support the industry are here and are of top quality.”
A&L Goodbody now has six partners who specialise in aviation and transport finance and leasing. The most recent recruit to the team at partner level is David Berkery, who has over 12 years’ experience in Dublin, London and New York. He is based in the US, advising many of the world’s leading financial institutions, airlines, aircraft lessors, investment banks and private investors. He advises on the acquisition, leasing, financing and trading of aircraft, vessels and rolling stock.
Duffy said Berkery’s appointment adds further experience to the firm’s aviation finance and leasing team. She said this expansion of the team was “reflective of our confidence in the market and in the industry in Ireland and the future of the industry."
A&L Goodbody has far-reaching experience when it comes to aviation finance and leasing, with a strong client base in Asia and the US.
“The firm established a China programme in 2012 enabling it to develop business and relationships in China and the Asian markets.” Duffy said.
“China, and Asia generally, are the biggest growth markets for aircraft, with a large number of the Chinese lessors coming into Ireland. Marie O'Brien, a highly experienced aviation partner who also heads up our China programme, has been at the forefront of advising and assisting these new lessors to establish their leasing businesses in Ireland."
“A&L Goodbody is a leaders in advising and assisting the global aircraft finance and leasing community wishing to establish in Ireland. We are very proud of our track record supported by our team of six partners.”
Duffy welcomes the collective efforts by industry here to make sure that success is both recognised and supported. One of these ways was the establishment of a new representative body, Aircraft Leasing Ireland (ALI), in July, to ensure that Ireland retains its number one position globally in aircraft leasing.
“I was delighted when Ibec, together with industry leaders, set up the Aircraft Leasing Ireland forum.” she said. “Aviation is a very substantial industry in Ireland that stands on its own two feet. It is an international business with its home in Ireland and something to be proud of.”