by Brian DeChesare Comments (73)

Leveraged Aircraft Leasing: The Best Way to Break Into Finance as an Engineer?

Aircraft Leasing Jobs

I have a confession to make: years ago when we first started doing interviews on this site, I never once thought about asking for a volunteer to cover “aircraft leasing.”

Or, for that matter, Saudi Arabia, Nordic Renewables, and a whole bunch of other topics.

But I’m glad that so many readers stepped forward and offered to contribute on these topics – the articles turned out to be fantastic…

And this one on leveraged aircraft leasing might just be even better – especially if you’re an engineer looking to break into finance and haven’t had much luck at banks, prop trading firms, or sales & trading desks.

Let’s get started with a deep dive on an industry you might not have even known existed:

The Story

Q: You mentioned that aircraft leasing, and equipment leasing in general, are great for engineers who want to break into finance. Were you an engineer or technical major who followed this path?

A: Nope! I studied classical history and languages as an undergrad, at a “semi-target” school.

I also studied international relations and economics as additional majors.

I didn’t have much solid work experience and had degrees that were only marginally useful, so I decided to go back and get a Master’s degree in Applied Economics right after finishing up with undergraduate.

I ended up as an Analyst at a wealth management firm and did a lot of “performance evaluation” and some light analytical work. It wasn’t great, but it sure beat unemployment, especially as the recession was starting.

Q: Aha! So then, you got tired of that and moved into aircraft leasing…

A: Nope! I started looking around for other opportunities, and came upon a Project Finance-related role at a government agency.

It involved investing federal, state, and local tax money into infrastructure projects – there was some overlap with public finance, but this role was more about modeling huge infrastructure projects like bridges, highways, commuter rail, and forecasting demand for transportation services, projecting how well projects would perform, and how the region could best finance them.

It was less about projecting cash flows and more about macro-level forecasts – but it was actually very relevant to what I had learned in the Master’s program.

Q: I see… but since it was for the government, I’m guessing you got bored of this role fairly early on?

A: Yeah, pretty much. I worked there for almost 3 years, but since it was the state government you hit the “ceiling” early and it is difficult to advance, in terms of responsibility or compensation.

There was some interesting work, but if you have a relatively young supervisor you’ll never be promoted until they retire – 25-30 years into the future.

My supervisor was only a few years older than me (26), so I decided it was time to get out and find something else.

I did a ton of investment banking networking with mixed success; I was in talks with a few wealth management firms, a few boutique banks on the west coast of the US, and also with a few ratings agencies, but didn’t have much luck with traditional IB/PE-type roles.

Q: Yeah, given the state of the market and the other people applying I’m not too surprised. So will you finally tell us how you ended up in aircraft leasing?

A: It was almost accidental. I applied through the front door (i.e. simple resume submission) to an aircraft leasing firm, went through 4 rounds of interviews with them, and got the job.

While it wasn’t the same as an IB or PE role at a large firm, it was way better than continuing to work for the government, going back to wealth management, or going to a ratings agency – and, in my view, better than going to an unknown boutique bank as well.

I’ll talk about the recruiting process in more detail later, but I managed all this without much knowledge of equipment leasing in general or aircraft leasing specifically, and they seemed used to meeting candidates who were unfamiliar with such a niche business and who had little to no aerospace experience.

Equipment Leasing 101: Got a Free Private Jet?

Q: Amazing. On that note, what do you actually do in aircraft leasing (and equipment leasing in general)?

I’m assuming it’s quite different from DCM / Project Finance / Aerospace and Defense?

A: Sure. It’s actually closest to what you do in commercial real estate, or maybe at a small private equity firm that focuses on assets rather than entire companies.

Here’s what happens:

  1. We get an asset-based loan to buy a commercial aircraft from Boeing or Airbus, and we purchase it using a combination of debt and equity…
  2. And then we rent it out to airlines that are in need of aircraft and can’t purchase them on their own.

If you’re wondering why an airline would not be able to purchase aircraft on its own, in a lot of emerging markets (places like Southeast Asia and Africa) there’s fast-growing demand for flights but these companies have a very difficult time getting loans to buy the aircraft.

On paper, the airline itself still orders and purchases the aircraft from the manufacturer – we then purchase the aircraft from the airline immediately upon delivery, and then lease it back to them.

Since we use leverage for everything, I spend a lot of time sourcing debt, sending RFPs (Requests for Proposal) to banks seeing how much debt they can raise, and so on.

Overall we sit somewhere between a financing group like LevFin / DCM, aerospace, and a real estate investment firm that acquires properties and rents them out.

Q: So if I’m looking for a private jet, could you help arrange the financing?

A: Hah! No, unfortunately. My firm only deals with commercial aircraft, so no private jets or private anything else.

However, there are several firms that do specialize in private jet leasing and financing if that is what you find interesting.

Q: So what does the industry look like? I have to admit I know nothing about this, as you’ve already figured out.

A: It’s a very small industry – there are only around 20 firms total doing this worldwide, and GECAS (General Electric Capital Aircraft Services) and ILFC (International Lease Financing Company, a subsidiary of AIG) together have about 50% market share.

The culture of those firms is very formal and corporate, hours are rigid, and people wear suits every day; the recruiting process is quite structured and the interviews are similar to investment banking interviews.

They also tend to want candidates with several years of experience in either finance or aerospace.

Then there are the publicly-listed aircraft leasing companies such as Air Castle (AYR), AerCap (AER), FLY Leasing (FLY), and Air Lease Finance Company (AL). They’re smaller in terms of both fleet and personnel, and in most cases these firms have pretty formal business cultures.

Then there are several leasing companies that exist as subsidiaries of major banks and insurance companies, such as Bank of China Aviation, Aviation Capital Group (US), and SMBC Aviation Capital (Japan). The culture at these subsidiary lessors also tends to be very corporate and formal, especially in Asia.

Lastly, there are several leasing companies based in Europe, such as AWAS and AVOLON in Ireland, and AerCap in the Netherlands. The culture there tends to be less formal than what you see in finance in the UK, but not as informal as some of the smaller US lessors.

At my firm specifically, the culture is closer to a US-based boutique investment bank – but the hierarchy is flatter and people don’t care as much about your job title.

There are busy periods and not-so-busy periods, just like what you see in investment banking itself, but there’s not much face time or pressure to work a certain number of hours just for the sake of working.

Q: Ok, thanks for sharing all that… we’re going to jump into more detail on how “deals” work and some other points later on, but I want to circle back to one point you brought up before we started: that aircraft leasing, or equipment leasing in general, is a good place for engineers.

Why is that the case?

A: Because you need in-depth knowledge of the actual equipment that you’re leasing in order to evaluate investments in that equipment.

This industry is not like PE or banking where you don’t have to understand the technical details of the company to buy or sell it – here, you actually need to understand engines, aircraft parts, and the differences between models, makes, and so on.

This is especially appealing for any engineers who actually like to learn about and understand machines and capital equipment, as you will spend a great deal of time learning all the ins and outs of the assets to gain an edge. In some cases our team understands the aircraft better than the airline fleet management teams.

And it’s the same in other fields in equipment leasing, such as railroad cars and ships: a technical background really pays off and will give you a big advantage over the typical finance types who might apply for these roles.

So if you’re a mechanical or aerospace engineer, this is one of the best pathways into finance. If you’re a computer scientist, maybe not so much.

Recruiting 101

Q: So let’s say you get interested in this industry and decide to apply for jobs – what do you need to know for interviews, and how does recruiting work?

A: At larger firms, interviews would be more like traditional IB interviews with the same sort of “fit” and technical questions.  You can expect some technical questions about the actual equipment assets they deal with.

At my firm specifically, they didn’t care much about accounting or M&A-related interview questions.

Debt structure and cash flow modeling are much more important, as is asset valuation – specifically how much various aircraft are worth.

They may expect some general finance knowledge about bonds, types of debt, and possibly ask you some DCM-related questions as well.

One interviewer asked me all “fit” questions for the entire time, but it was really important because my team only has 7 people – so if you don’t fit in, you’re out.

If you don’t have industry experience, the most common question you’ll get: “How do you value a commercial aircraft?” – or other general questions designed to gauge your logical reasoning abilities.

Q: And how do you value a commercial aircraft?

A: An aircraft can be divided into several segments: Airframe, Engines, Engine Parts, APU, and Landing Gear. Most of an aircraft’s value lies in its engines, and the quality and global usage of the engines is a key consideration when evaluating an aircraft investment.

Additionally, Mid-Life and New aircraft are valued significantly differently, and you need to know the market prices for engines and other parts at various stages in the aircraft’s lifecycle.

It’s also important to follow the commercial aviation industry and understand the big trends. Commercial aircraft manufacturing is essentially a duopoly, and the decisions made by Boeing and Airbus have a dramatic impact on the value of the aircraft we own.

Q: OK, so what kind of candidates are they looking for? Newly-minted undergrads and MBAs, or those with more experience?

A: I’d say the ideal candidate is actually an engineer with an MBA or someone who has worked at one of the manufacturers in sales or finance – they love to find those people because they understand both the technical/engineering side and the business/finance side.

Recruiting is generally quite informal, and if you can make the right connection you can network your way in or even get in as an intern in an MBA program.

Even the largest firms in this market don’t go to schools to recruit on-campus, so you need to be very proactive.

Attending industry conferences is a great move, because it is such a small, close-knit industry that you will likely meet a large number of people from all over the world in this business.

Getting in as an undergraduate would be very difficult because normally they want to see more experience than that.

There’s also a lot of pressure NOT to hire people in this industry because many leasing companies are subsidiaries of larger firms, or are owned by private equity firms. They want to keep margins as high as possible, so they are very careful about taking on additional employees.

A Day in the Life

Q: So what’s your life like at this firm? Is it similar to what a private equity analyst or associate would do?

A: On an average day, I get in around 8 AM and stay until around 6 PM. It’s effectively a 50-hour workweek unless something crazy comes up, which happens about half the time.

Averaging those possibilities, you could say the hours are less intense than investment banking but still significantly more than a standard 9-to-5.

As the day is starting, I respond to emails from people in other regions – especially Europe and Asia – that need deals to be priced and evaluated and require responses to questions.

So I’ll spend some time doing that, and then in the morning look through aircraft spec sheets for specific deals, evaluate the quality of the aircraft in a particular deal, and review the credit quality of potential airline lessees with our risk manager.

I’ll also build models to value aircraft and assess whether or not different deals are viable. The deal evaluation process is very collaborative and I discuss the various aspects in great detail with other members of the team, especially our technical department.

Around mid-day I may call anyone in Europe who’s still waiting for a response (since it’s the end of the day for them), and I also help out with more “random” tasks like cash management activities and interest rate derivatives (hedging is very important given all the aircraft loans).

Throughout the rest of the day, I’ll place calls and send out RFPs to banks and other lenders to line up financing for new aircraft. Most of this work tends to be with domestic firms since we’re in the same time zone, but these activities can occur at other points in the day if we are dealing with foreign banks.

At the end of the day, I may place calls to people in other time zones where the day is just starting, such as Asia. I might also do some legal work around this time – the end of the day is the only time you can get legal advice from our general counsel, and it’s very important since a lot of legal and contract work must be completed for each deal.

I spend a lot more time studying term sheets and reviewing small details than a typical IB/PE analyst or associate would – banks like to sneak in language about extra fees and other restrictive conditions, so it’s our job to discover all that and negotiate to remove it.

Q: Thanks for that overview… I want to go into more detail on a few of those points. First off, what exactly does this “modeling work” consist of?

A: It’s a lot like a bare-bones LBO model and it’s simpler than a normal LBO model because we model assets and cash flows, as opposed to companies and full financial statements.

We have several deal hurdles mandated from our board, such as IRR targets, borrowing spreads, and long-term asset value.

Typical leases can range from 4-12 years for new aircraft, and less than 6 years for mid-life aircraft.

The deal metrics vary by the length of the lease; generally we target higher IRRs for shorter leases to make them worthwhile.

Then, just as in an LBO model, we back-solve and see how much we could afford to pay for the aircraft given a certain lease period and the targeted IRR.

Commercial aircraft range in price from $40 – $180 million USD.

We do use multiple tranches of debt when buying the more expensive assets, and so the terms and structure of debt will also factor into the model.

Q: So that’s how you assess the viability of a deal and how you can value aircraft in some cases, but what else do you need to know on the technical side?

A: Another major factor is learning the maintenance and lifecycle of commercial aircraft.

Aircraft “age” is based on the number of cycles (1 cycle = take-off and landing) flown, and the rate of corrosion that occurs in the various parts of the aircraft.

The frequency and procedure of aircraft maintenance is highly regulated, with strict rules mandating the timing of the various checks (A check, B check, C check, D check) performed based on how many cycles the aircraft has flown.

The term of the lease can be driven by how an airline plans to use the aircraft.

If an airline plans to run very short flights, which means more cycle wear on the aircraft and earlier heavy maintenance checks,  then we want to structure our lease such that the expiration occurs after those heavy checks begin.

The engines in an aircraft are also a very important part of the process because many commercial aircraft have two or more engine options that airlines can select at delivery.

Lessors need to know what the most common engine types are for a particular aircraft, and there are many ways that a lessor’s team can add value to a deal through a deep understanding of the asset’s lifecycle.

Surviving and Thriving Afterward?

Q: Thanks for that explanation… yeah, it gets really tricky to realize solid returns when the asset declines in value over time.

You mentioned earlier that the culture of these leasing firms varies widely – anything else to add there?

A: Besides what I described above about the culture of big firms vs. smaller ones, you should also note that there are 4 main departments at most of these firms: Sales & Marketing, Capital Markets, Technical, and Accounting / Legal.

Capital Markets is all about sourcing the debt and financing deals, with some risk management thrown in as well.

The Technical department is mostly former engineers from airlines and the major manufactures, like Boeing, since you need intimate knowledge of aircraft internals and their lifecycles to work there.

Sales & Marketing is mostly about doing deals with the airlines and traveling all over to negotiate lease deals. People in this department come from sales at Boeing and Airbus, or from airline consulting firms.

So the culture varies greatly depending on which department you’re in – it’s impossible to generalize since they’re all quite different.

I would not really consider any of these “back office” or “middle office,” except for maybe Accounting / Legal, since you work with clients and do work that directly contributes to deals in each department.

Q: And now for the obligatory question about pay…

A: The titles and corresponding pay (base salaries + bonuses) are identical to sell-side investment banking.

So even though we’re technically on the buy-side, we don’t get that same jump in pay or prestige, though the hours are much better and the work itself is arguably more interesting.

Q: I like your direct answer there – much better than interviewees who refuse to say anything!

Now for the exit opportunities… this sounds like a very specialized field, so I’m assuming your options are limited?

A: Yes and no. The most common transitions I know of are:

  • Move to a commercial bank that’s making asset-backed loans (e.g. Structured Finance).
  • Go into the finance department at an airline, or do route planning or fleet management there.
  • Start your own leasing company, if you have the experience and financing connections.
  • Becoming a flight attendant, if you happen to be a supermodel.

I’m joking on the last one, of course, but the first 3 are all do-able.

There’s a lot of skill set overlap with private equity, so theoretically it seems possible to break in – especially if you work at a firm that’s owned by a PE firm. But in practice, I think you might be more limited to firms that specialize in aerospace and defense and related fields.

Q: So who’s the ideal fit for aircraft leasing, or equipment leasing in general?

A: It’s great if you have an engineering plus business background. They really like people who did undergrad degrees in engineering and then went to business school.

Liking airlines would also help, but it’s not absolutely required as long as you enjoy the work itself and the process of thinking about aircraft.

In all types of equipment leasing you need to like the assets you are dealing with, because you’ll be learning about those assets all day long.

“Typical” bankers would not like it here because the work is quite different, it’s a bit slower-paced, and you don’t see people who are obsessed with their bonuses and earning as much as humanly possible.

And it doesn’t necessarily provide a clear path into PE unless you’re working at the right firm, so it’s not the best option if you’re set on making that move, either.

Q: I see. It sounds like you’ve liked it quite a bit so far, but are you planning to stay there long-term?

A: I’ve definitely learned a lot since I’ve been here, but, as in other fields, it does get harder and harder to switch and move elsewhere the longer you’ve been here.

The best part about this job is that you run into a lot of colorful characters – in a good way – in many emerging markets. The CEOs and CFOs of many emerging market airlines are very “interesting” people and it’s actually a lot of fun to work with them.

The overall environment is much less stuffy than what you see at a bank, so it’s hard to think that I’ll even find “greener pastures” in that regard.

Bottom-line: I’ve enjoyed this so far and it definitely beats the government and wealth management work I did before.

Q: Awesome. Thanks for sharing your story with us!

A: Any time.

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys lifting weights, running, traveling, obsessively watching TV shows, and defeating Sauron.

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  1. Hi Brian,

    I have reread this article a couple of times during this year. I am finally getting fully into aviation leasing, I just got into a master program and would really appreciate the chance to have a chat with the interviewee, if there is a possibility. Article is quite old and was wondering how did his career evolved and his forecasts for the industry.

    1. We did this interview years ago, so I have not been in contact with the interviewee in a very long time. I can reach out, but the probability of getting a response decreases exponentially over time. We may eventually update this article or write a new version.

  2. Hi Brian,

    I know the article is old, but quite interesting. As in the comments, I always see architects not regarded as engineers, so it is difficult to relate to these stories. It would be really nice to hear from architects that have transitioned to finance-banking roles, I guess many of them would be on real estate, but would be interesting to know how.

    Just an idea for coming articles.

    1. We hope to cover a story like that eventually. All the interviews on this site are from volunteers, and we haven’t had anyone from an architecture to finance background yet.

  3. Hi Brian,

    Thank you for this great article.

    Just wanted to get your views on starting a career in the aviation finance department of one of the big 4s. Being from a technical background woking for Airbus for 4 years on project management and product design what do you think would be an ideal fit for me in one of the big 4s, Since the big 4s are generally involved with Audit and Tax services.

    Any thoughts and feedback would be great.

    1. If you want to join a Big 4 firm, then the aviation finance department is the best fit. If you want to get into front-office IB/PE eventually, it’s a good first step but you will probably need another role to make the move.

  4. Tejeshwar Kapahi

    how easy is to start you’re own leasing firm after you’ve been with industry ?

    1. About the same difficulty as starting your own boutique bank or PE firm other finance firm: Very difficult, even if you’ve had a lot of experience, because it’s a competitive industry and tough to find clients.

  5. Is it possible to transition to investment banking from this area?

  6. very informative ‘ i would like to start an aircraft leasing company in india . but i donot have any money

  7. Hi guys,
    I have applied for the UCD MSc Aviation Finance program but got rejection. I have completed my engineering from Electronics & Telecommunications Engineering last year I.e in 2015.and don’t have work experience right now .During my 3rd year of college I had also undergone a 1 month Internship in Air traffic Services, IGI Airport. So now what my point is I have got a another chance to apply for this program. They told me that you should write an essay about why you are suitable for this Program.

    So guy’s please help, what should I write to make my chance better.

    Email address-


    I have a very long experience in aviation industry for positions such as Maintenance Planner, Production Planner, Material Planner, and Reliability Analyst. My desire to work in any leasing company such as GECAS, Aercap ( who recently bought ILFC), ALC, etc., started when I was hired by an engineering company based in KL, Malaysia.

    The job requires a great eye for details that includes conducting complete aircraft audits and records reviews at aircraft transitions from one operator to another. Manage acquisition process, offer technical opinions and completes the technical acceptance process. Manage work scope development, maintenance input monitoring and ensures end-of-lease or in-lease-acceptance obligation compliance by the client’s customer. Closely manage the aircraft delivery or re-delivery process update clients about progress throughout the project. Ensure the client’s obligations to the next lessee are met, while minimizing exposure to additional costs.

    Other Specific Functions, such as:

    i. On-site technical evaluation and assessment of Client’s aircraft and records;
    ii. Provide the applicable technical and discrepancy report and records status and advise the necessary action items;
    iii. Liaison with Lessor/MRO for any rectification of records and/or Aircraft and follow up with the Lessor/MRO on the inspection package that will be done on the aircraft;
    iv. To review and provide soft copies of Aircraft records to Clients. If not readily available, to scan and provide soft copies of the Aircraft records per the Client’s records review checklist;
    v. Development of Maintenance Schedule or Maintenance Implementation Procedure (MIP);
    vi. Preparation and application of Certificate of Airworthiness;
    vii. Provide daily status report of the project plan and progress;

    I realized that working with a leasing company is the key for me to make my life better. For your information, I am Computer Science graduate but I managed to learn a lot in aviation industry, as you cannot perform such tasks listed above if you do not have knowledge about aircraft. My problem is, I am now becoming frustrated since I have tried applying for several leasing companies and despite of my experience related to aircraft leasing, I still end up not being hired. Sometimes, they don’t even make a response on my job application.

    Can you give me an advice on how can I get the attention, or probably, impress leasing companies, or make them think that I can be a worthy employee in this field.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      We are not too familiar with leasing companies to give you informed insights. I’d suggest that you reach out to contacts in leasing companies you are interested in on LinkedIn, ask them out for coffee, and ask them how you can best position yourself. Good luck!

  9. This job is described as the best fit for engineers who then went to a business school.
    What are the best options for those who studied CS (computer science) before the business school?
    Thank you.

      1. Nicole,
        Thank you. Are there any other suggestions? (not THAT geeky but something in between pure quant and pure sales)
        P.S. I could not expect a quicker response. Thank you for your brilliant work.

        1. Tech IB or perhaps some other finance role where you just focus on software/internet companies would be other options. See:

  10. Just wanted to leave a word of thanks to the post. This article (including comments) has just provided greater insights into an industry which I have been aiming to land into – aviation finance.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      You’re welcome.

  11. Thanks for the article and insights! As a former pilot now in business school, this is a niche industry that I have a strong interest in pursuing!

  12. Hi there, great article. Can you disclose the company that the interviewee works for?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Perhaps not. However, if the interviewee wants to disclose such information he/she may be in touch

  13. Deepak Mahawar

    Hi Brian,

    Lovely article and very useful too.

    I am a licensed aircraft engineer from India. Since long time looking for an opportunity to get into aircraft leasing firms,but unfortunately not able to.

    Can you please help me where to start with, which firms will be easy to get in for starting.

    Appreciate your response.


    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’m not 100% sure; you may find these firms interesting:

  14. Can you let us know what company you work for? Or give us a few smaller firms like yours around the country.

  15. As a recent Aeronautical Engineering Graduate (BEng, First Class Honours) in the UK, what approach would you recommend for securing a career in aircraft finance? In addition, what role- given my credentials- would I be best suited to?

  16. A little late to the game, but great read. It sounds like the person answering very much works in a pricing function, but wanted to say that people with a finance heavy have at least one other route to get in the door at aircraft leasing companies–credit. Since credit/risk was not brought up as a major function, I’m going to guess that OP may be from a large West Coast leasing company, which tends to ignore many credit due diligence aspects of the industry.

    That being said, credit/risk is also a very interesting job at these companies because you can be more excel-lite (spreading financials will still be a large part) and also be client facing when doing credit diligence. It also allows you to go on the road quite a bit to parts of the world that you may never have dreamed of going to.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Thanks for your input.

  17. Chris Papajohn

    Dear Brian, Thank you for your interview. I wonder if I may ask you a question off line? Thank you, Chris

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Perhaps you can leave your question here and Brian can respond to it.

  18. Great Article Brian!
    I’m an Aerospace engineer with an MBA and interested to break into AC leasing. I’m currently a program manager at a tier-1 supplier to Airbus/Boeing and would like to know the most efficient way/position to break in. Further, I would appreciate if you be more specific about the pay and growth opportunities in this field.

  19. Just stumbled across this article and love it! I am an avionics/maintenance engineer and would like to get into the business purely on a technical side. I have tons of in depth knowledge of commercial aircraft and factors which affect their value. Any specific advise in my case? What would the compensation in the technical department be comparable too? Thanks in advance.

    1. Not sure about compensation – it really depends on the company and whether it’s independent or a subsidiary.

      I’d focus on your story and networking and make sure that you have really specific reasons for wanting to leave a pure engineering role… and also read up on the technical/valuation side just so you can answer any of those questions that come up.

  20. Hoping that 2013 opens up the market for aircraft leasing jobs!

  21. You can check out the Monitor 100 for the top 100 equipment leasing/finance companies.

  22. Can anyone give me some names of participants in this business?

  23. LOL (at me) for not being clear!

    You answered some of the questions in the other threads already, but the main question I was asking here was this: can I use my experience in equipment leasing to get an an associate position in IB (after getting an MBA). The reason why I had thought the answer might be “no” (and that I might be looking at only analyst positions because I might be viewed as a career switcher like others not coming from IB) is because I had thought equipment leasing wasn’t really considered “real” finance, for the reasons I stated above. Seeing equipment leasing posted on this site made me think it could be possible, and that’s what I as asking:if it is possible to use my experience in equipment leasing to get an an associate position in IB.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes I think so though I’m not familiar with equipment leasing so readers maybe able to offer you better insights

  24. INTERESTING! I’m in equipment leasing. I haven’t been reading this site much lately, I read for two years and then not so much recently, but this whole time I thought equipment leasing wasn’t really “finance industry proper.” I’m a senior sales rep with 4 years experience. I can tell you loads about the pay and industry for the small to mid-size business ticket equipment leasing arena. Good money but the top end pay is not as high as what I’ve seen reported for IB/PE pay…part of why I was thinking about making the switch as I’ve mentioned before. I had been back and forth about moving to IB/PE and then recently decided I wanted to make the switch. But I’m still deciding if it’s going to be worth it, what’s going to be my best Plan of Action, and I still need those answers.

    Back to what I was getting at is that I’ve asked if my experience(I called it commercial finance–I didn’t mention it as “equipment leasing” because most people don’t know what it is and think I’m saying I work at a hardware store or something, and I always have to say “non-real estate/mortgage” because they automatically think I’m a commercial mortgage broker) was going to count as pre-MBA finance experience that can get me into an associate position after getting an MBA because I wasn’t sure if leasing counts a “real” finance experience. Leasing has always seemed, to me, sort of on the fringe of the finance world. Every business needs and does it from the biggest to the smallest companies, we are funded by the same P/E BB names that everyone knows or our parent companies are usually I-banks and publicly traded companies, but most don’t know what it is or much about it, and even most business students/men/women have only seen a quick blurb about it one accounting or corp finance book from their past. This article kind of (?) put this in the realm of finance proper but I am still wondering if it’s the kind of experience that I can leverage to do what I want to do (get an mba and then get an associate position out of b-school…using networking too of course)?

    By the way, we are not so much a collateral based lender/lessor the way aircraft leasing companies are, we focus more on the company (end user) so we do in fact do financial statement analysis and modeling etc. for mid-size deals. Not valuation of businesses of course. So I’ve got some of the analytic experience?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I don’t quite understand what your question is?

  25. Highly doubt this his optimistic view on salaries.

    I interviewed with a multi billion HF that did aircraft leasing and even they paid much lower than sellside ibanking. There is no way this guy is getting 240k-300k all in on a much smaller shop and not even a high paying HF backing it.

    1. He didn’t say he was making that much… he said it was the same as banking, and analysts and (new) associates in banking don’t make that much these days. He is in an entry-level role there, so that pay scale wouldn’t apply.

  26. Excellent article Brian!  I’ve  worked in wealth management sector for last three years myself  and want to move into aircraft leasing on the sales side. I  have in total six years sales/client relationship experience outside the aviation sector, hold an aerospace engineering degree and a european pilots license (private). But really want to avoid doing an MBA or any masters degree and instead wish to break in directly. What do you think be the best course of action? Should I target the smaller companies first?  Try break into the sales side of an airline? Maybe look into opportunities with corporate jet operators? I’m currently based in Asia.  Thanks

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Honestly, I don’t know if a Masters/MBA degree would help in your case since you have no experience in the industry. I’d contact the companies directly, and I’d contact all the above you mentioned to widen your net. You need to develop the network and sniff info on the industry. Once you have done the above, I think you’d have a better grasp on the next steps. Good luck!

  27. When you speak about engineers, can an architect be consider as such? I studied architecture, not only the designing part but also architectural engineering (structure, electricity and so on). Can I be included in the engineering group, or architecture is considered more as an artistic major by bankers?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Not really, the two aren’t the same…

  28. How about transitioning from a Hotelier?
    Do we have any scope at all?
    With marketing and advertising for last 6 years, i now wanna make money by getting into IBD, also because i think i can make good enough presentations to clients, bulls#!t my way around, and negotiate like a boss. How do i go about it from here?

    1. Hmm that one is tougher if you’ve done marketing or advertising. Probably easiest to move into an investor relations role and then try to move into more finance-oriented jobs from that. Or go to business school – with 6 years of work experience it might be tough to move in directly.

  29. Nader Nazemi

    Great Piece.

    Thank you

    1. Thanks for your comments!

  30. Brian,

    Have you heard anything about some BB and MMs not hiring for FT this year? It would make sense since this past year has been AWFUL for the industry.

    1. It’s possible – banks usually cut back and hire almost entirely from their summer analyst classes when that happens. So recruiting from non-summer-analysts may drop sharply or not exist at all.

  31. Very interesting interview Brian, thanks! Sounds to me as a pretty interesting alternative path to IB/PE.

    BTW, since you’re covering a wider range of finance jobs, I believe an interview on Re-insurance might be quite interesting.

    1. Thanks! Yes, hope to cover insurance / re-insurance soon. Very interesting and I can invoke plenty of references to Inception…

  32. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for this information!! I’m an electrical engineer with a recent MBA in strategy trying to break into this market. How does one go about finding these jobs and where does one look for them.. Appreciate any insights you could provide not just for these kinds of jobs but any other jobs in this industry I could apply for! Thanks

    1. You have to find the companies first, then look up them online on job boards and see if anyone might be hiring… and then find a way to contact them, ideally by speaking with someone there first rather than just applying blindly online. If you can’t find a connection via alumni or coworkers / former coworkers, just apply online and/or call the firms directly. It seems like it worked well for the interviewee here and since fewer people are applying, you do stand a better chance.

    2. Interviewee

      Since leasing companies tend to be small in headcount, especially on the deal side, you should consider going to an industry conference and just introducing yourself to the attendees from the leasing companies. Offer to buy them a drink or take them to lunch and chat about the industry. Most people have a passion for aviation, and if you share that, you will make friends quickly. There are usually plenty of mid-senior people at these events and I have seen students networking like this before. The largest industry conference is ISTAT, but there is an engine finance conference in Las Vegas this fall, that you may want to look at as well.

  33. I am an aerospace engineer,trying to break into IB. Interesting article. Thank you

  34. Thanks for the read. I look forward to more content on engineers and finance.

    Keep it up!

  35. Corrosion on a commercial airliner? Didn’t need to hear about that thank you very much!

    1. Ok. Next time we’ll limit mentions of corrosion to private jets instead…

  36. Dear Brian,

    It’s perfect article. I appreciate your site.
    And could you tell me, please:

    What is the best way to break into finance as an programmer?
    (I’m working in the small retail bank in Russia)


    1. You need to get some type of finance-related experience… show that you’re interested in investing or financial analysis via a personal portfolio, a class, a program you’ve taken, and so on. And approach very small banks and explain why you want to change careers. If you’ve been working a long time (3+ years) you may have to go back to school first to have a good shot.

  37. identical… really?

    1. Also wondering the exact same thing.

      Identicle? With a 50 hour week half of the time? Seems too good to be true.

      Unless the other half of the crazy time is 100+ hours/week and it averages closer to 75/80hrs.

      1. Yes, the average is somewhere between 9-to-5 and banking hours, so figure around 60-70+ per week. In that context it’s not really “too good to be true” as many PE roles have hours in that range and pay the same as or better than banking.

        1. Okay, thanks for following up. Very interesting article, enjoyed as always.

    2. That is what he said. It is not that unreasonable – many buy-side roles like PE, HF, AM pay just as well if not better than banking and hours may be better, especially at smaller firms.

  38. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the post. Though I’m not an engieering student, It’s fairly enjoyable and helpful to know more about the industry. Looking forward to more insights.


    1. Thanks for reading!

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