A day in the life of a fintech CEO

Originally from Scotland, Andrew Smith completed his PhD studies in economics before working as a partner in the consulting practices of KPMG, Arthur Andersen and Unisys. In 2008 he joined Corfinancial: a fintech firm offering software and advisory services to banking and finance companies around the world.

Today he spends two thirds of his time in the UK and the rest in the US, growing the business.

What time does your alarm go off?

I’ve gotten into marathon running over the past few years, so my day starts at 5am when I shake up my head with a 12km run and think through the upcoming day.

Wow, now I feel incredibly lazy. So when do you usually arrive at the office?

I have a fairly lengthy commute into London, I live sufficiently far enough out that when I get onto the train I know I’ll have a seat and fold out table to work from. On the two-hour trip I try to clear all my email and correspondence, and make some internal kick-off phone calls for the day, before getting into the office for 10am. By structuring my day this way I’m ready to focus on clients, staff and key meetings as soon as I arrive. And on the way home – after the commuter crush leaves the train at Reading – I’m able to close out my daily correspondence on the trip home.

What’s the first thing you do once you arrive?

Once in the office I’m usually in meetings that cover everything from software development roadmaps right through to new business pitches.

Describe your morning

When I’m not in meetings I’m typically keeping an eye on client propositions and deliveries, or being sucked into day-to-day business operations management.

What happens at lunchtime?

I have lunch! I’ve always been a little hyperactive, so I also go to the gym three times a week. It helps me reset myself and gives me a mental break from the office. I use the time to catch up on the world around me via podcasts. When I can, I like to steal a short walk along one of my most favourite places in the world, the Thames Path.

What does a typical afternoon look like?

It’s very much more of the same as the morning – meetings and presentations. Given the nature of the work we do, it’s very much tailored to our clients, so every document or product we put together is bespoke rather than templated.

How do you assess your progress for the day?

My to-do list at the start of the day is really a statement of intent that more often that not gets bumped about as the day goes on. Often progress does not follow a linear path but takes more of a random walk. It always gets there in the end but not necessarily via the route you envisaged when you planned the day. Put another way: progress is when you sense you are moving forward, when at the end of the day you’ve scored more goals than you’ve let in.

What’s the best thing about what you do?

In short, seeing the results of what we imagined we were aiming for as a team and then actually getting it done. It’s seeing that look of wonder and appreciation in a client’s eye when you have solved their problem.

Are there any downsides?

Too often, many initiatives take far longer than you imagined they would. The creative process to high performance solution generation is painful and the required delivery harder. It hurts your head!

What time are you usually home?

I’m usually back home by 8:30pm, providing there are no problems on the trains, I live in hope! My extended journey home allows me to keep in touch with our offices in Boston and New York during their working day hours.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were leaving university?

It’s what you can get done that matters the most, so turning up to work as a warm body – aka ‘presenteeism’ – is just not enough. You need to invest and engage yourself fully in the task at hand.  Own it completely and make its successful outcome personal to that point where you are fully invested emotionally. Simply put, can you solve the problems or challenges at work and take ownership of delivering the solution better than anyone else? That’s where high performance value gets delivered to the organisation and clients. To borrow from Steve Jobs: How can you deliver “insane value” every day, at the work place, with colleagues and clients?

What advice do you have for graduates planning to work in the fintech sector?

Be brave. Learn to be more creative and more analytical. Always look for the thing that’s really behind the thing. Don’t be surprised if doing the same old, same old, gets the same old, same old result. Engage and develop both the left and right hand sides of your brain. We live in a multi-faceted and multi-dimensional world; real success now requires us to have the skills and interests that are congruent within a non-linear world. Oh, and read! Read widely – especially history and biographies. The world has a habit of repeating itself.

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