ISTAT News | 01 March 2021
Jetrader: On the Rise
One of the things ISTAT is great at, says Paul Geaney, is bringing together senior executives in the industry. Of course, due to the global pandemic, getting together in person has been severely restricted, but the concept of “together” has grown to encompass more than just in-person events over the past year, and ISTAT Online emerged to fill that void of face-to-face conversations and education with a plethora of digital offerings. But even before the onset of COVID-19, Geaney, an ISTAT board member and chief risk officer at Avolon, saw a gap within what ISTAT was providing.
While ISTAT does have offerings for newcomers in the industry, such as the ISTAT Professional Development Program and the ISTAT Foundation Scholarship Program, Geaney believed there was another group within ISTAT that needed a platform.
“The future leaders of the industry — the most ambitious, hungriest and keenest-to-develop cohort — were not being serviced in terms of opportunities to hear senior executives speak or to engage with people like them in other parts of the industry,” he says.
No one else in the industry was providing such an opportunity, so Geaney imagined ISTAT could step in and do what it does fantastically for senior executives for rising executives, defined as those with one to 10 years’ experience in the industry.
Then the pandemic hit.
“We started planning prior to COVID-19,” Geaney says. “In this group, you have the most tech-savvy and the most prepared to engage digitally of anybody in the industry, so once we’d taken a breath and thought about what the offering should be, we said, ‘Let’s not wait until post-pandemic. Let’s kick off.’”
Thus, the ISTAT Rising Executives Program kicked off.
Although he chairs the program and his employer, Avolon, sponsors it, Geaney couldn’t — and didn’t want to — run it alone. “I’m very wary of being prescriptive, because I’m not the target audience,” he says. “The program is very much driven by the rising executives who are involved as committee members.”
Those committee members include Bridget Corry, trading and pricing manager at Genesis Aircraft Services; Andrew McCarley, director and senior consultant at Peabody Aerospace; Ned Musgrave, vice president of origination at Avolon; and Aaron Prothero, vice president of aircraft trading at Aerolease Aviation.
The committee members are spread across the globe — Dublin, New York, Hong Kong and Miami — and each member has their own committee in their respective region. The intent of the program is to create a community that exists and engages within itself outside of ISTAT’s larger events, and the committee members are ultimately in charge of that.
“Many [rising executives] do not have the opportunity to attend ISTAT events on a regular basis. By hosting regional and virtual events, [they] can gain insights from industry leaders tailored to the target audience,” Corry says. “There is also an opportunity to submit questions and shape the conversation to ensure attendees get the maximum value from each event.”
Musgrave continues on that point, “At a lot of events, you might not get exposure to the senior people or the opportunity to speak with them. In the [ISTAT Rising Executives Program] events, that’s not the case. Everybody is a peer. Everybody is an equal. I think that’s a really positive thing and, hopefully, over time, you’re sowing the seeds of friendship that, in 10 years, these people will be in senior positions, and you’ll have that network, which this industry thrives and relies on.”
The First Events
Although they’re increasingly beginning to sprout up now, in-person events were essentially nonexistent at the launch of the program last year, so the committee was tasked with creating engaging virtual events, which Corry thought worked out surprisingly well.
“We were able to launch the initiative with a global event, which was actually quite exciting to know we had brought the entire community together for the inaugural event,” she says.
That first event, held on 19 November 2020, was a conversation between Geaney and Genesis CEO Karl Griffin. ISTAT Online features a number of different speaker-type series — such as the ISTAT Podcast, ISTAT Learning Lab and ISTAT Chats — but Prothero says the Rising Executives programming comes at topics from a different angle.
“The first series was based on other recessions that Paul and Karl have gone through and what they were thinking as young people. Do I leave the industry? Do I stay within the industry, but maybe I’m better at a different role? It gives advice to the demographic that isn’t apparent anywhere else,” Prothero says. “I think that one of the core functions of the program is being able to not only allow [junior] professionals in the industry to network but also to have resources through mentors in the business that will be able to guide them in their career goals. The first series was very good in doing that and giving insight into the minds of people who have made successes of themselves in this industry.”
Presenting the event as a conversation fit the tone the committee was looking to achieve with the program, and there were also opportunities for attendees to ask questions and engage as a group.
“We wanted it to be looser, so we thought having two people who know each other well was important,” Geaney says. “Karl and I are best buds, but we are totally different. We met as really inexperienced guys in the pricing team of a small leasing company. He had come from a totally different background: a maintenance and repair organization with airline experience — all technical. And I was a classic finance guy. We went off and did different things, but our friendship has always been there. Although we both had a leasing background, the story that we were trying to tell was: There isn’t just a single, simple path. There are lots of different ways to get into the industry and then develop in it with so many fascinating different pockets.”
The second event was held on 28 January 2021 with Thomas Garbaccio, managing director at Fortress Investment Group, and Jep Thornton, managing partner of Aerolease Aviation.
“They offered the alternative/the old-school aircraft trader mentality. They emphasized networking, being aware of what’s going in your space, being creative and dynamic and leveraging their skills to create successes of themselves,” Prothero says. “Those kind of talks are priceless because it’s a direct look into the thought process of very prominent people in this industry.”
When it was conceived, no one could have imagined the ISTAT Rising Executives Program would be virtual only, but despite the limitations the pandemic has wrought, the committee is thrilled with what it’s been able to do so far.
“We have been very successful in pivoting to an online presence,” Andrew McCarley says. “I am energized by the value that the platform has brought to our ISTAT community right out of the gate.”
Geaney agrees. “As of the end of February, there were nearly 700 registered members,” he says. “Given how little time we’ve had, that’s pretty good. My aspiration is that it could and should be much bigger. There is enough there in terms of energy and interest for us to know we’re onto something.” As the world begins to reopen this year and in-person events become safe, that energy and interest will likely continue to rise.
“While having global virtual events have been a great way to start the initiative, people are definitely eager to have the opportunity to network and meet other young professionals in their industry,” Corry says. “I hope we can offer that opportunity to those in the aviation industry and continue our conversations with industry leaders.”
The topics and speakers for future events are all yet to be determined, but Geaney says the program will be both branching out and making sure it remains relevant to its audience.
“Each of the [regional] committees will be determining what is appropriate for them,” he says. “The ambition is to bring these people together to help them network, socialize, broaden their contact base of knowledge in the industry, and also to provide them access to hear from industry leaders about topics that are germane to them.”
Musgrave leaves potential program participants with a parting thought: “If you’re new to the industry, this is the best thing for you to do. You’ll meet new people, you’ll learn about different roles, you’ll learn about different opportunities, you’ll grow your network and you’ll make friends. This program is for rising executives, so you’ll be making friends with future leaders in the industry, and you’ll have that network, which is so important. I wish there’d been an offering like this back when I started off — and I’m not just saying that.”
Advice for Rising Executives
“A good mentor once told me to ask as many questions as you can and do the absolute best job no matter what that job is.” —Ned Musgrave
“Try to learn as much as you possibly can. Be the biggest sponge you can be, and soak up as much information as you can to be able to utilize it in your career going forward. The benefits of this work you are putting in now are not going to be realized tomorrow; they’re going to be realized in the years and years to come.” —Aaron Prothero
“Don’t be afraid to reach out to people. Members of the aviation community generally love what they do, and they are excited to meet passionate people who want to get involved.” —Bridget Corry
“It’s important to be knowledgeable and up to date on the latest market trends in the capital markets and global economy. Financial literacy is critical.” —Andrew McCarley
“If you want to develop as a professional in this industry — or any other — the No. 1 thing is doing your current job in a world-class manner. No. 2 is to have a genuine interest in what’s happening in your business and in the industry that doesn’t directly relate to you. If you actively build your network, actively look to understand your business and actively look to understand the industry, you will stand out. The progression takes care of itself. If you’re doing those things, and the progression isn’t taking care of itself, then you’re in the wrong place. In my conversations with more junior executives on my team, there’s this drive to make the next thing happen. I was also like that, but I’ve learned that, actually, making the next thing happen is very much about doing the current thing really well.” —Paul Geaney