10 Questions: Craig Smith

April 3, 2019

Relationship director Craig Smith helped establish Close Brothers Technology Services– a division of the 140-year-old Close Brothers Group – in 2016, with the aim of working with business leaders to help them invest in the technology they need to keep their businesses moving in the right direction. Craig now works with clients across the North of England and Scotland

What was your first break in business?

The vast majority of my professional life has been involved in banking and finance. I started my banking career in my teens as a cashier and completing back office duties. As time went by I became intrigued and drawn towards the world of business and commercial banking. The variety of clients, and the differing situations presented, made each day challenging but an exciting environment to work in. Having worked my way through the ranks in a high street bank, I finally got my break and became a business relationship manager in Newcastle city centre. I held this role for several years which helped me develop a range of skills and experiences which I rely upon today.

What did you want to be growing up?

I’m always drawn towards sport and like most kids I dreamt of being a sportsman. With two left feet I wasn’t going to be a footballer, but my real passion and ability was on the cricket stage. I enjoyed a little bit of success in my earlier years which led me overseas with Sussex CCC and as recently as last year I was still representing Northumberland in the Minor Counties Championship. Unsurprisingly, I never made my fortune as a cricketer, which meant I had to make a career change. Looking back, I’ve always enjoyed engaging with people, so it comes as no surprise I now have an important client-facing role.

What attracted you to your current role?

In June 2016, I was invited to join a team of fellow industry professionals to set up a new challenger technology services business called Close Brothers Technology Services. It was a new division of Close Brothers Group – a merchant bank that traces its roots over 140 years. Being part of the original team who established this business allowed me some control and influence as to how we grow and prosper. These types of opportunities are few and far between and the challenge of building something from scratch, especially in the exciting sector of technology, was a great draw for me.

What is your company’s mission?

We create informed technology solutions that help businesses to accelerate their preferred outcomes. We think of ourselves as the glue that joins together the different parts of a company’s technology asset strategy – a role which is becoming more and more important with the ever-changing pace of technology. Our approach lowers the total cost of ownership of technology and provides a structured way of managing equipment.

How do you get the best out of your team?

I try to be passionate and enthusiastic about my work, so it rubs off on others and creates a positive culture. I always encourage others to get involved and create an environment where everyone has an invested interest to succeed. I think it’s important to share experiences and best practice as a team for learning and development. Finally, and most importantly, there must be some fun thrown in there too!

What has been your career highlight?

Being part of the original team that set up Close Brothers Technology Services. We are a long way from the job being finished but we have made a solid start and there are several exciting opportunities and projects in the future. There is a big market to be captured and I want to make sure that we are best placed to do so.

What has been your biggest challenge?

The first day of Close Brothers Technology Services. We didn’t have an existing client database to rely upon, we virtually had nothing but a business plan, laptop, mobile phone and plenty of enthusiasm. Our success to date has been down to literally blood, sweat and tears…well, not so much blood. We haven’t scratched the surface yet, so I’m braced for more sweat and tears.

Who or what inspires you?

I’m inspired by new and disruptive technology and the positive impact this has on us all, not just in business but also in our day-to day-lives. What really motivates me is helping businesses invest in this new technology, which helps them do things faster, smarter, and better. When I look back on my career I would like to think that my contribution has helped create a really successful business which has helped many businesses in the regions that I operate across.

What are Close Brothers Technology Services’ short and long-term goals?

Short term, it’s to push our growth aspirations to the next phase by acquiring new corporate clients and servicing the needs of our existing clients. Longer term,we want to be recognised as the leading technology finance provider in the UK. As the newest entrant in this huge market I believe we have the team and skillset to achieve this over the coming years.

How do you achieve a good work/life balance?

Often the lines between work and life become blurred, however, I think these are the growing pains of a new business. Family and friends are a great distraction from work. Two sports mad kids keep me on my toes and I have a passion for cricket whether that’s playing, coaching or watching…with a glass of something cold of course!

Close Brothers Technology
www.closebrotherstechnology.co.uk
Craig.rsmith@closebrothers.com
07711 191 346
@CloseBrothers

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