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Q&A: At the leading edge - Anne-Bart Tieleman, TrueNoord

Anne-Bart founded GA-Finance in 2002, which became TrueNoord in 2016. He realised his ambition to create a company that combined his experience in financial management with his love of aviation, by creating GA-Finance in Amsterdam, having previously worked for Deutsche Bank.

What is your earliest memory in aviation?


My first memory in aviation was reading Biggles, a series of books by W E Johns, written over a long period from 1932 to 1968. These stories triggered my interest and dreams about flying. And of course, at that age I made every take off and landing ‘fantastic’ – as Biggles would say! When I was 17 years old I started flying as a member of a gliding club. My ambition was to become a pilot but my parents thought it better to get a degree first, so I started studying mathematics at the University of Amsterdam.


What attracted you to the aviation industry?


I believed flying was the ultimate freedom. So, after finishing my studies and having a job at a large bank I earned my private pilot’s license. But it was only after 15 years or so in banking that I decided to do something with my hobby and profession. That was the start of GA-Finance, an aircraft leasing company with the focus initially on general aviation. We quickly learned that a much more interesting market was emerging. This was the leasing of regional aircraft, and in 2005 GA-Finance bought its first ATR 42-300 and leased it out to DAT, a Danish aircraft operator.

This led to the purchase of further regional aircraft.


Which other aviation executive do you admire and why?


I find that a difficult question to answer. I have great respect for the management team at Avolon and appreciate how they are managing their tremendous growth. It has only taken a couple of years for the company to become number three in the aviation lease business.


On a personal level, I was impressed by Neal D Crispin, the former Chairman and President of AeroCentury. He was a kind person and deeply interested in what TrueNoord was doing. Clearly he saw the same opportunities in the regional market as we saw in them. Unfortunately, he passed away at the beginning of last year.


And another person you cannot ignore if you are active in leasing regional aircraft is Martin Møller Nielsen of NAC. He has clearly built the current number one leasing company in regional aviation and I follow the development of his business with great interest.


Last year, GA-Finance was rebranded as TrueNoord. What was the main significance of this change?


Last year GA-Finance closed on their capital increase project and joined forces with a professional investor who wanted to participate in the further growth of the company as a specialist regional aircraft lessor. As we wanted to make this a clear step change for the business but also to leave the obvious link to general aviation behind us, we decided to change the name to TrueNoord.


TrueNoord is a mix of English and Dutch for true north, something that is rather important to know if you navigate during flight.


Right from the beginning, the focus has been on regional aircraft leasing. What led to this specific strategy?


You are correct, from the start we have focused specifically on regional aviation/regional aircraft. In my previous business life, in banking, the pursuit of big, bigger and biggest deals drove us forwards, and that may well be the right policy for such large organisations. However, it means that there are market segments left aside for others to cultivate. In the aviation business this is the regional aviation market, and this is what I want to develop.


Within the commercial aviation sector, it is the aviation industry itself that has created this niche market. For a long while few banks were interested in financing turboprops, or jets of around 50 to 70 seats. But this has changed and the regional market is now seen by banks as a risk diversification from the Airbus and Boeing market, although much smaller. >>

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