Most buyers don't want outsiders to know the details of how they secured financing for their business or personal aircraft or yacht. Unless you are a public entity, that’s best left private. The financiers in the aviation and marine finance division of longstanding east-Florida bank Seacoast National (Booth 3526) recognize this, and it is their discretion and personal service that is making the bank stand out in financing turboprops, light, and medium business aircraft. The company recently announced it joined the National Aircraft Finance Association (NAFA), a professional network of aviation lenders.
Seacoast is a survivor, having existed continuously and grown as a community bank for more than 90 years. Today it holds more than $5 billion in assets and has branches throughout northeast, central, and southeastern Florida. It was known for its personal service and offering competitive interest rates in its marine and recreational vehicle loan division, but it wasn’t until the mid-2000s that the bank began making a significant number of aircraft loans.
According to Phillip Bartholomew, yacht and aircraft finance specialist at Seacoast Marine Finance, located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that decision was customer-driven.
“Our typical customers are high-net-worth business owners or professionals and small- to medium-sized corporations who are looking to purchase these assets. Our loans are typically up to about $9 million, which encompasses a huge percentage of the aircraft sales market,” he explained.
How does a relatively smaller community-style bank compete with the behemoths of the mid-Atlantic, the Northeast, and Europe on aircraft loans? By understanding both the market for the collateralized asset (the aircraft) and the customer’s needs, Bartholomew told AIN. Without a solid understanding of the intrinsic value of the aircraft, its wear-limited parts, and long-term marketability (most of which require research, but not a crystal ball, according to Bartholomew), bankers sometimes make loans they later regret.
“Our business model is based solidly on excellent customer service. From the first call, the client will work with one loan officer, who stewards the project from start to final signatures. We have the flexibility to customize terms depending on the type of aircraft and the age of the aircraft. We don't have a one-size-fits-all loan program. Instead, we spend a great deal of time earlier in the conversation trying to decide what's going to work best for the customer and then crafting a solution for them,” he told AIN.
Business has been good for the past couple of years, which is part of what brings Seacoast to NBAA 2018. “Look, we love kicking tires, so to speak, at the displays, and seeing firsthand what is available for our clients. So it is nice when the show is nearby. The conference helps us keep track of industry trends and industry changes, including regulatory changes that might affect how we do our business,” he said. “We come to the show to learn and expand our contacts, including attorneys who specialize in aviation law, title insurance companies, and of course aircraft sales professionals who we hope will refer their clients to us when the time is right. NBAA is a distillation of many facets of what makes us successful in our business,” he said.