Background and early life
Thomas Hector Smith was born in Stonehaven in March 1845. His father was a corn merchant, and he was educated at the Grammar School in Aberdeen.
Bank of Scotland
In May 1861, when he was 16, Smith began work as an apprentice in Stonehaven branch of Bank of Scotland. Three years later, at the end of his apprenticeship, he moved to Edinburgh, initially working as a junior teller in Bank of Scotland’s George Street branch. He was said to be ‘not devoid of the frolic element’, and sometimes stood on his head to amuse colleagues.
He later spent time working in the bank’s inspector’s department, and then in 1874 was appointed to the important post of assistant manager at the bank’s London branch.
National Bank of Scotland
In June 1881 National Bank of Scotland’s general manager W J Duncan announced his intention to retire at the end of the year. National Bank of Scotland appointed Thomas Hector Smith to serve as joint general manager alongside him until then, taking over as sole general manager thereafter. At the time, Smith was just 37 years old.
Smith held the post of general manager of National Bank of Scotland for the next 30 years. For several years beginning in 1897, he was also president of the Institute of Bankers in Scotland.
He retired at the end of 1911.
Character and appearance
A biographical sketch of Smith published in 1904 described his character thus:
‘Truth compels the statement that he was rather of the society order. The Scottish Bankers’ Literary Association knew him not. While it was debating he was probably dancing, fencing or volunteering. But let it not be thought for a moment that he was neglecting his banking duties, for he discharged them in a cool and collected fashion, and with quite a capacity for business. His non-aggressive character helped him greatly. He always dressed in the pink of fashion. He had the faculty too of being susceptible and pervious to the ideas of others and of gauging their utility. He went along the line of least resistance. He made few or no enemies while he was pursuing his upward flight, whether he makes them now or not. He was courtly and deferential: he knew whom to cultivate and whom to avoid.’
Of his physical appearance, the same sketch remarked:
’of commanding height, he is of pale complexion, has a dark military moustache…broad but sloping shoulders, and large lustrous orbs.’
Family life and death
In 1871 Thomas Hector Smith married Lucy Deans. They had several children, including a son, Dugald Smith (later Dugald Smith Deans) who also went to work for National Bank of Scotland, eventually rising to the position of assistant manager of the London branch. Another son, Hubert Hector Smith, was killed in the First World War.
Thomas Hector Smith suffered from poor health in his later years. He died at home in Edinburgh on 29 October 1917.
- Biographical sketch in Scottish Banks and Bankers (Edinburgh: The North British Publishing Co Ltd, 1904)
- Obituary, Bankers’ Magazine, 1917