Stephen Smith, Sc’72, to be Inducted into Canadian Business Hall of Fame

stephen smith at the business school
Photo Credit: Suzy Lamont/Queen's Alumni Review

Queen’s University alumnus Stephen Smith, Sc’72, LLD’17, is being inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame.

The hall made the announcement Nov. 16. Mr. Smith will enter the hall next June as part of the class of 2019.

Mr. Smith is co-founder, chairman and CEO of First National Financial Corporation and one of Canada’s leading entrepreneurs.

He’s also known for his philanthropy and is a longtime supporter of Queen’s.

In 2015, Queen’s announced the naming of the Stephen J.R. Smith School of Business in recognition of his historic $50-million donation to the business school.

“It’s really an honour for me to be part of the hall of fame along with so many great nation builders,” Mr. Smith said in an interview. “People who are business leaders know the challenges of setting up businesses and running them. So that makes this recognition quite gratifying.”

The hall of fame is a who’s who of legendary Canadian executives past and present —  from Samuel Bronfman (the Seagram Company) and Joseph-Armand Bombardier (Bombardier Inc.), to Heather Reisman (Indigo), Guy Laliberté (Cirque du Soleil) and Jim Pattison (the Jim Pattison Group). It started in 1979. Inductees become companions of the Order of the Business Hall of Fame.

Mr. Smith’s significant contribution to business began in 1988 when he and Moray Tawse founded First National Financial in Toronto. Their goal was to create value in mortgage lending, and they introduced several innovations to the market. Among these were various securitization techniques to finance mortgage assets.

Another innovation was through information technology. First National’s proprietary underwriting system, called Merlin, was Canada’s first web-based, real-time broker information system. It created a paperless 24/7 management platform for mortgage brokers.

“In many ways, First National is the original fintech (technology used in financial services),” Mr. Smith said. “We just didn’t call it fintech back then.”

Today, First National is Canada’s largest non-bank mortgage lender. It employs around 950 people across the country and has more than $100 billion in mortgages under administration.

Mr. Smith has expanded his financial industry investments over the years. He is chairman of Canada Guaranty Mortgage Insurance Company, which he owns in partnership with the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. He is also the largest shareholder in Equitable Bank, the country’s ninth largest bank. He recently co-founded Peloton Capital Management, a private equity firm.

“We’re honoured to have Stephen Smith as a companion in the Canadian Business Hall of Fame,” said David Denison, chancellor of the Order of the Business Hall of Fame. “Mr. Smith’s achievements and contributions to the business community are immense.”

Mr. Denison added that Mr. Smith has also proven “a tireless supporter of Canadian culture through his philanthropic efforts and dedication to social causes.” These include support and involvement with the arts, history and charities. In 2012 he was given the Queen Elizabeth ll Diamond Jubilee Medal for contributions to Canada.

Mr. Smith has expressed a desire to direct his philanthropy to education, which he says has the power to transform lives.

“I think a lot of the wealth in Canada is in the human capital that we have, and that comes from a great educational system,” he said.

Mr. Smith will be inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame at a ceremony June 19 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre alongside three other business leaders: Claude Lamoureux, retired president and CEO of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan; Clarence Louie, chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band; and Annette Verschuren, chair and CEO of NRStor Inc.

This story originally appeared on the Smith School of Business website.