Stephen Smith is the chief executive officer and co-founder of First National Financial Corporation. Prior to the company’s formation in 1988, Mr. Smith was brokering Canadian mortgages to institutions. At this time, he recognized the value in the nascent mortgage broker distribution channel. His vision was to originate and underwrite high quality mortgages from this channel for sale to large institutions.
By focusing on high underwriting standards, service to brokers with leading edge technology, First National Financial found a place in the market. Soon it was servicing the mortgages it originated and, through securitization became a lender in its own right. Most notably, Mr. Smith spearheaded the creation of an online application, called MERLIN, which provided greater service to the broker community and revolutionized the industry.
In thirty years, his vision and diligence has created what is now the largest lender of single-family mortgages in Canada outside the five big banks and the largest commercial lender in the country. First National Financial now has about 950 employees, and over $100 billion of mortgages under administration.
In the past 10 years, Mr. Smith has expanded his investments in the financial services industry. He is chairman of Canada Guaranty Mortgage Insurance Company, which he owns in partnership with Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. Mr. Smith is also the largest shareholder in Equitable Bank, the country’s ninth largest bank.
Mr. Smith has always placed great importance on civic responsibility. In 2015, Queen’s University announced the naming of the Stephen J.R. Smith School of Business in honour of Mr. Smith and his historic $50 million donation to the school. He serves on the boards of the Royal Ontario Museum, the C. D. Howe Institute, E-L Financial Corporation and the Canada Infrastructure Bank.