Content provided by Robyn Murray, Freelance Writer
Anders Smith sort of fell into the financial industry. “As most people did at that time,” he said. “By accident.”
It was 1986, and Smith was 22. He had moved to Boston with $50 in his pocket, a liberal arts diploma, and his bicycle loaded on the back of his car. He didn’t know where he wanted to end up, but finance was a burgeoning industry at the time — mutual fund companies were looking for young people who had energy and enthusiasm and were willing to work long hours.
As he has been throughout his life, Smith was up for the adventure.
Anders Smith was born in New Jersey, but his family moved to Rockford, Illinois when he was 10 years old. His mother was a teacher, and his father was an executive in human resources. He grew up with two sisters and a brother, all quite a bit older. He had one brother closer to him in age, but the family lost him when he was just eight years old. Smith was four at the time.
Smith recalls his childhood as fun and active. He was very involved in sports at school, and he spent summers either in Cape Cod, Massachusetts or at a camp in Wisconsin where he learned to sail and ride horses. Most days, he could be found exploring outside with his dog, Saint. Smith’s parents grew up during the Great Depression, and together they taught him the lessons of perseverance and hard work. But they also instilled in him a sense of adventure. And when he graduated high school, he was ready to take one on.
He’d been talking over the idea for years with one of his closest childhood friends — to set off across the Atlantic and cycle across Europe. So, at age 17, Smith and two friends dismantled their bikes, packed them up, and got on a plane to London. At Heathrow Airport, they reassembled them and hit the road. “We rode our bikes out of Heathrow Airport and all the way around England, Ireland and France for six weeks,” Smith recalled. They crashed overnight at youth hostels and camped in farmer’s pastures. “It was an outstanding, unbelievable experience,” he said. “The people you get to know when you’re biking and stopping in this little towns and villages . . . it just gives you an incredible perspective as to our place in the world.”
After the trip, Smith headed south to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He thought he might pursue a career in human resources like his father, so he majored in psychology. He enjoyed learning about how people make choices and understanding their motivations. It’s something he continues to be interested in today.
Smith graduated in 1986 and decided to move back to the East Coast and set up in Boston. “I had come to love New England,” he said, “and always knew I wanted to live there.” A friend who had recently graduated from Harvard was looking for a roommate, so Smith set off on his next adventure. “I packed a bag and attached my bike to the back of my ’72 Monte Carlo and drove out to my future,” he said. He arrived, with $50 in his pocket and no firm plans, on July 5, 1986, his 22nd birthday. “My primary goal was to live somewhere in New England,” he said, “and I simply hoped to find a job where I could earn enough money for living expenses.”
Fortunately, he recalled, it was a good time to find work in Boston. The mutual fund industry was growing rapidly, and young people willing to learn and work hard were in high demand. Smith’s interest was piqued, so he decided to get licensed. He started out at a small broker-dealer, but didn’t feel that was a good fit. So he updated his resume and, by happenstance, the assistant at the print shop said he knew somebody who placed people with Series 6 and 63 licenses. That turned into five interviews and a job offer at MFS Investment Management.
Smith began his financial career on the sales desk at MFS working with advisors, wholesalers and clients. He loved it. “Working with advisors, that really got me up in the morning,” he said. “I loved helping them and educating them about the industry and about making their businesses better, more profitable and efficient.”
After two and a half years on the sales desk, Smith moved out into the field and headed to San Francisco to cover the Pacific Northwest territory. He enjoyed being on the road, but as he worked his way up the company, he started getting noticed for his speaking and presentation skills. He had taken a communication course at MFS and become an effective communicator. So, the company moved him back to Boston and sent him to meetings and conferences around the country where he became a spokesperson for the firm.
After 16 years in various capacities at MFS, Smith was recruited by Nuveen Investments in Chicago. It wasn’t a great time to move. He had just finished remodeling his home, and his wife was pregnant with their second child. But, he didn’t want to turn down the opportunity. So, Smith and his young family headed to the Midwest, and he took a position as a wealth management consultant. In 2008, he was tapped to lead the sales effort for the new defined contribution investment-only team, and he ultimately became a senior vice president at Nuveen. When he started, the group had $50 million in annual sales and $1 billion in total assets. He led the team to significant growth: $15 billion in total assets and annual sales of $3 billion.
In 2014, Nuveen was purchased by TIAA-CREF. That led to a corporate restructuring, which eliminated Smith’s position. He’d heard about CLS Investments from his former colleague and CLS wholesaler, John Welch, and he was impressed by his enthusiasm for the company. Smith applied for a position at CLS and came on board in September, 2017. He is now back on the road as a regional sales director — and he’s enjoying his new adventure.
“So many traditional wholesalers just focus on the product,” he said, “as opposed to going in there to partner and develop relationships for the long term. That’s what I really enjoy — developing those relationships.”
Smith said he’s enjoyed every new adventure in his life and been changed by every experience: the birth of his three children, his marriage, which just passed the 20-year mark, as well as the loss of his brother when he was a child and the loss of his father when he was just 27.
“I’m continuing on a journey,” he said. “Life experiences continue to evolve and change, and I don’t expect to be the same person five or 10 years from now as I am today.”
Smith is ambitious in his career, eager to climb through the ranks at the prestigious firms on his resume. But he’s driven by much more, particularly his faith and a desire to be a positive influence in people’s lives. It’s why he enjoys working with advisors. “To recognize each interaction on a daily basis as an opportunity to be additive,” he said. “To really be someone people want to be around and be remembered in a good, positive way.”
It’s a way of living that he grew up with: integrity, a good attitude, and a readiness for the next adventure.