Inspirational Woman: Sam Smith | CEO, finnCap Group  

Sam Smith

Sam is chief executive of finnCap Group, a leading City broker and provider of strategic advisory and capital raising services to growth companies.

She is the youngest and only female chief executive of a city stockbroking firm and as such is a supporter of social enterprises designed to inspire and engage the next generation of female business leaders and entrepreneurs.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role?

I am the founder and CEO of finnCap Group, a leading provider of strategic advisory and capital raising services to growth companies. At 24, after graduating in Economics from Bristol University and qualifying as a chartered accountant with KPMG, I started my career in finance at private client broker JM Finn.  I worked in the company’s corporate and broking division, where I set up a corporate finance team focused on small and mid-cap companies, growing the division for 10 years.

In 2007 I led a partial buy-out of that division which formed finnCap and became CEO. Three years later, when we hit our first milestone of being the No.1 broker on AIM, we decided to complete the buyout of the rest of JM Finn’s stake. Since then, I have grown the business leading it through its IPO on London’s AIM market in 2018 by merging with M&A firm Cavendish Corporate Finance. The business is now the largest NOMAD and AIM company financial adviser and we have worked on over 200 deals.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really, no! When I left KPMG I decided to pursue something different and work at a smaller company where I could see the business develop and grow. JM Finn gave me that opportunity and I loved being able to build something from scratch. For me, it was always about what we could do with the corporate and broking division in the next two to three years and once we got there, it was about moving forward to the next stage. I also wanted the opportunity to work with smaller entrepreneurial businesses to help them unlock their potential and accelerate their ambitions, which is what finnCap is focused on as a financial adviser.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

There were many challenges along the way and in fact most days there were a few! I think the biggest challenge was starting finnCap two months after the collapse of Northern Rock and then the financial crash began to erupt so equity capital markets just froze.  There were four months between January and April 2008 when finnCap didn’t work on a single deal and I barely slept in those months. But then at the end of April we managed to raise £5 million for the flotation of a consultancy business. The challenges will probably never end but that is part of growing a business.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I think the IPO of finnCap was a very big achievement and, this year, when we had our strongest performance in spite of the pandemic. I would still say though my proudest moment was buying out the remaining of JM Finn’s 50% stake, when our team came up with nearly all the money in a matter of hours.  This demonstrated our true belief in the vision of the company. It was also amazing to be able to offer everyone a fair share of the business by giving all employees the opportunity to buy £50,000 each of shares.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Having an ability to listen and be very self-aware, which has allowed me to improve and grow personally and always push myself out of my comfort zone. Being determined, sticking with what you want and not giving up is also vital to building a business.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I am a great fan of mentors and coaching and have worked with various people over the years who have helped make a difference to both my professional and personal life.

I think it is important to get as many different views as possible to help work out what you think is the right thing. Sometimes the smallest piece of advice can make the biggest difference when you are really listening and constantly looking for growth and ideas.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

Putting culture change at the top of the business agenda – a good and inclusive culture drives the right people to want to come and work for you and to stay with you. The key for establishing this is having a flexible and personalised approach to working life and hours which caters to each person’s individual needs, ensuring they feel valued and are set up for success.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Speak out more, believe in yourself and trust your gut.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

We have an exciting five-year plan for finnCap which includes doubling the size of the business. More importantly though, in that time I want to create a different type of adviser in the finance services space – where culture and doing the right thing is as important as profit.

I’m passionate about nurturing ambition and maximising the potential in young people, irrespective of background.  This has led us to creating ‘A Fairer Foundation’, which is focused on empowering young people and demystifying the paths of entrepreneurship, making it accessible to all.

As part of this, finnCap has partnered with YourGamePlan, to support young people as they transition from education into employment, equipping them with vital entrepreneurial skills. More than 700 schools across the UK have signed up to YourGamePlan’s digital training platform.

Through the platform, secondary school students can access an online training course titled Introduction to Entrepreneurship.  The course is designed specifically to fill the knowledge gap around entrepreneurship and help inspire young people – regardless of their social, cultural, or ethnic background – to consider setting up their own business.

WeAreTheCity has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Cherie Blair, Paula Radcliffe MBE, Caprice Bourret, Anna Williamson and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here.

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