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The Banker-Turned-Flying-Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur Amin Haque talks to AvBuyer about why it is justifiable for businesses to fly privately.

Rani Singh   |   6th November 2014
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Rani Singh Rani Singh

Rani Singh writes about aviation. She reports on news, foreign affairs, politics and business...
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Amin Haque was in banking for 20 years and founded two companies from scratch. He has flown on business jets, accumulated two million air miles and owned a Cirrus SR22. He has also flown seaplanes and landed on glaciers. Following CFO and COO roles at UBS, Amin became an entrepreneur in 1999 when he created MIB Partners, which today is the top investment bank benchmarking firm in London.

“Most of the world’s top consultancies tried to create a similar product and failed,” he explained. “We got the boards of the world’s top investment banks to pass us their most confidential data.”

Amin sold MIB partners to AON, and returned to New York as Head of Strategic Planning for the Investment Bank of Credit Suisse. He then became CFO for the $3bn IT division working in London, New York and Zurich. Amin has worked as a senior banking consultant to banking boards, hedge funds and the very wealthy in Europe, New York and the Middle East, and has also spent two years trying to get RBS back to a healthy place as Head of Planning Transformation and Expense Management.

One of Amin’s other start-ups is now a rapidly growing co-ownership scheme for business turboprops. Amin holds to a belief that we accept mediocrity too easily and he believes his turboprop business, F13, offers greater choice, cheaper prices and higher quality than the existing market. “Some businesses can fly privately with F13 for less than they currently spend commercially, eliminating hassle and saving time,” Amin outlined. “For those that already fly privately the saving can be as much as 70%. We are demonstrating that private aviation can be a practical and financially sensible option for businesses.’

The Best or Only Option

For Amin, private aircraft are a business tool whose reputation has been tarnished by corporate excess.

“I have observed every type of behaviour, including people exploiting first or business class to gain personal air miles, day trips on Concorde on consecutive days, and business trips engineered so a team can justify chartering private jets,” he outlined. “Choice of air travel is emotive and everyone has an opinion but sometimes corporate excess has damaged the reputation of a valuable business tool.

“However, I learnt from my banking years that there are many occasions when a private aircraft is either the best, or the only option. Sometimes it is the most financially sensible option.”
Pressed to give some examples, Amin offers, “During the UBS and Swiss Bank merger, our team had to make immediate decisions on the operations of our trading floors and management teams, and we needed to get to Zurich, Frankfurt, Geneva, Paris and Luxembourg, all within 36 hours. The only way we could achieve this was to charter a Citation.

“We also needed complete secrecy when we were advising on the start up of a sensitive hedge fund with high profile backers. We needed six hours in peace and privacy, so flying anti-social hours was the only way. Sometimes we travelled privately because our clients owned Falcons and Gulfstreams that weren’t being used much.

“During my time as CEO of MIB, I was privy to extremely detailed information from the bulge bracket Investment Banks, and privacy was essential. At sensitive times, we couldn’t use our laptops or read reports even on First Class. Private travel wasn’t the norm, but occasionally it was a necessity.”

Benefits vs Perceptions

Amin finds that private business travel is picking up after the financial crisis.

“There are encouraging signs, particularly with smaller aircraft. Many companies stopped flying privately after 2008 but others simply downsized to a more efficient turboprop or light jet. Not only is this cost effective; you can often get closer to your destination. Corporates have to be more aware of their carbon footprint now and by switching to a modern turboprop, you can reduce this by 60% compared to an equivalent jet.”

Amin acknowledges that public perception remains a factor preventing some businesses from flying privately, but thinks this is sometimes misguided.

“There is a greater than ever need for corporates to justify their expenses and that includes travel. For larger corporates whose assets and spending are closely monitored, flights have to be financially justifiable to shareholders. Doubtless many businesses that owned their own aircraft ten years ago no longer feel able to do so, but ironically this means many corporates are having to charter jets or buy large numbers of commercial seats at short notice, which can turn out to be more expensive.

“Businesses that downsized or retained a share in a fractional scheme are still able to move their best people quickly and efficiently and are never penalized if they need to make these plans at short notice,” Amin elaborated. “You sometimes travel suddenly to react to a problem that needs to be addressed in person. With aircraft ownership or co-ownership the costs are fixed and there is no penalty for flying at short notice.”

Amin thinks that public perception would change if the full costs of commercial business travel were fully understood. He emphasises that the total cost of a trip is far more than just the airfare. “The cost of travel includes time getting to the airport, going through security and passport control, boarding, waiting to take off, time in the air when you cannot work, and your onward journey from the airport to your destination.

“It includes sitting in a terminal with unsecure internet, being unable to take confidential business calls, paying for taxis, food and overnight hotels.

“The cost of commercial travel will always be perceived as being lower than flying private, but consider a team whose time is worth thirty thousand pounds [approximately $48,000] per hour - maybe a legal team that usually bills clients every six minutes. Would you rather your team arrive two hours before departure and then be cut off for two hours in the air, or would you rather pay more to allow them to utilise their time in the air with high-speed internet?

“The balancing point is different for every company,” noted Amin, “but you have to calculate the complete cost of traveling for each journey. For getting two people from Canary Wharf to Geneva, you are well served by the commercial airlines. However the time I needed to take six people from Jersey to Cannes in a hurry to rescue a deal, we had to have a seamless journey.”

Amin is an accomplished pilot who has owned a Cirrus SR22 and has studied for his type rating on the Pilatus PC-12. “My inspiration for learning to fly actually came when I was with a client in Courchevel, which is off-limits even to charter jets,” Amin explained.

“I saw this snow-covered runway, 550m [1,800ft] long, right next to the piste and thought, ‘I have to learn to fly here’.” (Amin is today one of few pilots worldwide able to land at Courchevel, St Tropez and St Moritz. London to Courchevel takes just 2 ¼ hours in the PC-12, making a day trip possible.)

So what are Amin’s favourite aircraft? “I have flown on the Falcon 7X, Legacy 650, various Citations (including the Mustang), King Airs, PC-12s. For long journeys I love the Falcon 7X, but would spend less money and buy a Legacy 650.

“For short or mid-length journeys, you can’t beat the PC-12 in my opinion, which is why we chose it for F13, our fractional business. You can fill the seats, luggage space and fuel tanks, and land in amazing places at a very reasonable cost. If money were no object? I would have the Falcon 7X and a PC-12, with matching interiors and technology.”

F13

F13 offer shares in new PC-12 NG aircraft, with exceptional interiors and on-board technology and a guaranteed buy back. After initial purchase and a fixed monthly service charge members can fly at EUR 1,700 per hour for the whole aircraft, 365 days per year (inclusive of positioning, two type rated pilots and all other costs). More information www.F13vip.com; Tel: +44 (0)330 111 1313.

Read more about: Buying Jets | Case Studies

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