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Ireland flies high as aviation finance centre Back  
Ireland emerged as a centre for aviation in the 1980s on the back of the GPA phenomenon. Today, the industry continues to go from strength to strength, buoyed by a global boom, and P?draig Rushe writes that it is no surprise to find the top three aviation lessors present in Ireland. However, he warns that to maintain and grow this business further, the tax environment must remain competitive, and skill sets must be appropriate to support industry developments and growth.
When the IFSC concept was initially developed over twenty years ago by Dermot Desmond it was in response to a difficult financial position that Ireland found itself in. Along with a downward spiralling economic climate an exodus remembered as the ‘brain drain’ was in full swing with thousands of the best and brightest completing their education in Ireland and then departing with their degrees and skills for London, New York, Sydney and elsewhere. The media, art and the general discourse of the time reflected this period in Irish history where Ireland’s young were considered its best export.

Throughout those early years of the IFSC and even to this very day one of our key advantages was that we had ‘an available and skilled workforce’. Over the last 20 years a variety of businesses have been attracted to the IFSC not least because of this key ingredient.
Padraig Rushe

Today, 20 years on, the quality of these skills is again to the fore as we witness an upsurge in activity in the leasing sector generally, most especially aircraft leasing. Ireland has over a long number of years, and off the back of the GPA phenomenon, developed its skills in this area and is now recognised globally as a ‘Centre of Excellence’ for this important sector. The fact that we have the requisite skills in abundance is a huge advantage and it is no surprise to find the top three aviation lessors and the two main aircraft manufacturers with sizable and developing presences here.

There are now over 30 established groups from around the world operating in the sector, which we can still label as the IFSC, although in truth the aircraft leasing industry can more accurately claim Shannon and not Dublin as its home. In line with the overall IFSC ambition of 20 years ago, the leasing industry has generated significant added value in terms of the quality of employment it creates across a variety of other sectors such as legal, accounting, banking, aircraft/asset management, marketing among others In time it may well be the case that leasing will take its place as another pillar in the firmly developed financial services sector. To achieve this Ireland will need to remain competitive across a variety of fronts as we have formidable jurisdictions carefully observing developments here.

We must continue to produce and develop the skill sets to support industry developments and growth. This is paramount as without the available and qualified workforce we lose what may well be our most prized competitive advantage. The tax environment must also remain competitive and supportive of the evolving needs of industry and as applies to all mobile investment we must be cost competitive.

Within the IFSC Banking and Treasury Group we are in the process of forming a leasing sub committee, which will have responsibility to maintain a strong focus on this hugely important sector. This sub-committee, which I chair, will endeavour to articulate the needs of the broader leasing industry and through the banking and treasury group issues and requirements will be presented to the highest level of Government. Similar committee structures have proved to be an important support mechanism across the IFSC over the years, essential indeed to maintaining the infrastructure that keeps Ireland competitive. The banking and treasury group is a specialised working group reporting up to the Clearing House Group attached to the Department of An Taoiseach and chaired by the secretary general.

The song was right …those big airplanes do indeed go both ways… hopefully they will continue to ferry to our shores an increasing number of experienced ‘earls’ to add to the quality, skills and substance of our workforce. Supported by their skills, leasing can join banking, funds, insurance and corporate treasury as another important IFSC sector and we can thus continue to grow and develop the IFSC vision for the next 20 years.

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