Stephen Smith


Stephen Smith is the Co-Founder of First National LP and First National Financial Corporation, a Canadian private lending company based out of Toronto, Ontario. First National is in the top three mortgage distributors across the nation. Smith originally served the position of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer but as of January 2022, he has been granted the new position of Executive Chairman in the company.

Early life

Stephen J. R. Smith was born June 2nd, 1951 in Canada’s Capital of Ottawa, Ontario. Here, Smith attended his elementary and secondary education including St. Patrick’s College High School. He was regarded by peers and teachers as precocious in the emerging field of computer coding at the time. He also had a penchant for ham radio operating, which he would work on often.

After graduating from St. Patrick’s, Smith moved on to Queen’s University to continue his interests in electronics by studying electrical engineering. However, during this period he also gained an interest in economics, and so gained special permission to take economics courses outside the scope of his degree. This gave him the opportunity to learn from famed economists Richard Lipsey and David C. Smith. This opportunity would later prove vital in the founding and makeup of First Capital later.

Smith graduated from Queen’s University with an honour’s Bachelor of Sciences in Electrical Engineering. The rudimentary abilities of computers at the time proved to be surprisingly sophisticated under Smith’s hands, but Smith eventually found himself returning to education to redouble his focus on economics. He graduated with a Master’s from the London School of Economics and Political Science in the United Kingdom soon after.

During his stay as a student in the United Kingdom, Smith became intrigued by the inherent connection between business decisions and public policy. Although he graduated in 1973, he continued his studies through internship and full-time positions as market research, research analyst, and assistant director in corporate administration for an aircraft manufacturer named Hawker Siddeley Canada Inc. in order to learn more about front and back-end management.

His thirst for knowledge was matched by an attitude that management did not appreciate at the time, and he was fired from Hawker Siddeley in 1980 for “speaking his mind.” He continues to believe to this day that his high opinion of himself at the time was a hallmark of being an entrepreneur.

Smith used his economics degree to change his career direction. His focus turned to real estate, but this quickly proved disadvantageous when historical interest rates almost shut down the housing market altogether. Smith, who had placed all of his assets in restarting his portfolio and career, declared personal bankruptcy. This was a difficult time for Smith, but also, he believed in the opportunity.


Following the interest crisis, banks began to become deregulated to increase competition and prevent similar issues from arising
. These changes in legislation affected the Canadian financial sector up for the change for Smith to create a company that could directly compete with banks. Thanks to this new legislation, Smith could then partner with Moray Tawse, a manager at Guaranty Trust to try and establish a corporation that would be backed by a third-party life insurance company. This company declined the opportunity but saw the benefit of the offer for their own business and offered to be their first client. Tawse and Smith established their own company instead on the second floor of a pub at Yonge and Eglinton and began selling blocks of mortgages originated from Guaranty Trust to other life insurance companies in 1988.

Establishing themselves as a business in this newly created niche caused by deregulation led to immediate resounding success. In the first year along with only 10 employees, the company generated $200 000. Its revenue continued to snowball afterward. Over time, First National continued expansion due to its success, including opening a new officer in Vancouver in 1991. It would continue opening offices across the country for the next several years. Over time Smith used his prior knowledge of software engineering to develop the mortgage software MERLIN. This software was used to both track and approve mortgages and was a tool that proved so useful it continues to use through their account system to this day.

By 2006, First National had begun programs to supplement the main mortgage lending services offered, including the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation insured Interest Only Mortgage. Their innovation led to collaboration with the Toronto-Dominion Bank in 2014. Smith made First National a publicly traded stock in 2006 to further cement its constancy and value in Canada, and by 2017, First National had over $100 in mortgages within its portfolio.

In 2022, Smith’s position in the company was changed from founding Chairman and Chief Executive Officer to Executive Chairman. His knowledge of the inner workings of the company continues to prove vital as strategic guidance for the management team.

First Nation is recognized today as Canada’s largest private mortgage lender. Smith’s knowledge of development and use of securitization to finance mortgage growth has become an invaluable resource at financial service conferences. His further investments in Canada Guaranty Mortgage Insurance Company, Canada bank Equitable Group, and Walmart Canada Bank have diversified his portfolio and cemented him as an established figure in the space of mortgage financial security. He is now recognized as Chairman of the Canada Guarantee Mortgage Insurance Company, Chairman and co-owner of the Duo Bank of Canada (formerly Walmart Bank), the largest shareholder in Equitable Bank, and a member of the Board of Directors of the C.D. Howe Institute, E-L Financial Corporation Limited and the Canada Infrastructure Bank.

Smith is married to his wife Diane (neé Blake) Smith and has three children. He is currently located in Toronto, Canada.

Net Worth

According to Forbes, Stephen Smith is worth $2.6B as of July 2022.


In 2007, Smith received the award of “Ontario Financial Services Entrepreneur of the Year” from Ernest and Young in recognition of his contributions to the mortgage industry through his success at First National. He was also awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, for contributions made to Canada in 2012. In 2015, Smith donated $50 million to the Queen’s University School of Business, which changed its name to the Stephen J.R. Smith School of Business in honour of his contribution. As of 2019, he was inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame.