Leo born August 21, 1945 - 63 this year.
Lived in 56 different places for at least a month (shorter visits don’t count). Visited 49 of 50 states and 34 countries. Objective is to visit at least 100 countries.
Worked for 34 different employers; the first at age 8 when I earned $1 per day. At age 16, worked full-time (40 hours) while going to high school and made $20 per week. School was from 8am-4pm and work was from 5pm-1am. No homework and still finished fourth in my class (only because in the 9th and 10th grades, the report card grades suffered since I was more interested in the girls).
First business was a newspaper route for a weekly publication at age 13. Earnings were from $25 to $30 per week. Best week was $45. The money was used for cigarettes, beer, whiskey, clothes, and girls - not necessarily in that order.
Since that first business, there have been 42 more. From owning newspapers (3) to financial services (6), to scrap metal, to marketing, and finally real estate development, constructions and sales. Some were successes, some were failures. Lost everything twice and started over each time.
Three degrees - accounting and finance, applied economics, and real estate. More than ten years attending various colleges and universities.
In 1995 did some volunteer assignments under US Agency for International Development projects in Central Asia. First in Kyrgyzstan and then Kazakhstan.
In 1997 all businesses in California were sold and I moved to Central Asia. Since then worked with central banks and governments in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Armenia, Montenegro, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Serbia.
Until 1997 had never been in a hospital. Pneumonia in 1997, appendicitis in 1998, colon operation in 2001, heart attack in 2002, cataracts in 2004 and 2007, detached retina 3 times in 2005-06.
In 1998 after the appendix burst but didn’t know for three days. By the time the cause of the extreme sickness and pain was discovered it was too late to be evacuated from Kyrgysztan. Had the operation and the doctor later said he lost me during the operation but was able to bring me back. Five days later had a near-death experience and saw the white lights. Very significant change in life at that moment - no longer wanted to do everything others wanted, but decided to control my own life from that time forward. These experiences have resulted in a book, After the White Lights, which is expected to be published in 2009.
An eye operation in Moscow, Russia led to the beginning of Devil’s Gates, a historical fiction based upon the extended family of Welsh immigrants to the US in the 1860s. This first book was published in 2007. It is part of a trilogy to be completed during 2008 and 2009.
Rev Jan 2008
August 10, 2007
Interview with Philip W. Smith Allegany Magazine
Born in Cumberland in 1945, Phil Smith grew up in a home built by his father off Winchester Road north of Cresaptown. He attended Cresaptown and Parkside elementary schools and moved on to Allegany and Mt Savage high schools before graduating from Ridgeley in 1963.
With a scholarship he attended Strayer College in Washington, DC and received his first degree; in accounting and finance. Phil worked as an accountant in DC and Cumberland and in the credit departments of Sears and Montgomery Wards before moving to Maine in 1969. He spent eleven years in Maine and was involved in real estate development and also had an accounting and tax consulting practice. In 1980 the business interests were sold and he moved his family to Southern California. He received two more degrees from universities in California; in applied economics and real estate.
After semi-retiring in 1995 from banking, he travelled to Central Asia as a volunteer to assist in the introduction of international accounting standards in the banking sectors in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. He also purchased two H&R Block franchises in California, which were sold after two years as the first and second fastest growing franchises in the southern California market.
The travel to Central Asia and the volunteer work led to full time consulting work with central banks and commercial banks in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Armenia, Montenegro, Afghanistan, Iraq and Serbia. He is currently Team Leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers on a 4 million Euro project funded by the European Union in Moscow. The various projects were funded by World Bank, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the British Department for International Development (DFID).
In addition to working as a consultant, he has authored contributions to three publications of the World Bank. Phil has written course material used in universities in California and in each of the eight countries previously mentioned. Phil has estimated that during the last twenty years of teaching at California colleges and institutes and in the various countries, more than 4,000 students have attended his classes in real estate, lending and accounting.
During a near death experience while recuperating from an appendectomy in a hospital in Kyrgyzstan in 1998, Phil saw the white lights and it changed how he approaches everything in his life. The changes include a divorce and second marriage. He has also been instrumental in funding micro credit loans to help poverty-stricken families in Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and contributing funds to help orphanages, hospitals, and pensioners’ homes in several countries. He has estimated that more than $150,000 of his own money has been spent in the last twelve years on these causes.
Two years ago, he started work on his first fictional novel. Devil’s Gates was published in July this year. It is a historical novel with a bit of a mystery twist that explores the background of a Welsh family that migrates to Frostburg just before the Civil War. The novel includes factual information of life in Western Maryland, the Canadian Rockies, and Chicago during the early part of the 20th century. The chapters alternate between the present year and various times in the past from 1888 to 1945.
He currently lives in Moscow with his Russian wife, Marina. His only daughter lives in Texas with her husband and three children.
AM: You have come a long way from Winchester Road in the last 62 years. How did it all begin?
PS: In August 1945, I was born in the old Sacred Heart Hospital in Cumberland. No, seriously, it has been a long way. I think it began when my parents didn’t really put restrictions on our thinking. That allowed all my brothers and sisters and me the freedom to be what we wanted to be. Education was important. Music was important. Art was important. And the only restrictions dealt with those - if we agreed to do something, we had to finish it.
AM: You have lived in three distinct areas of this country and in various other countries. Do you get back to Cumberland very often?
PS: Not as often as I would like. I used to visit several times a year while we had immediate family living here. My brothers and sisters moved away from Cumberland. After my father and my first wife’s mother died, I didn’t come back so often. It is interesting to see the changes and the effects of those changes since I moved away in 1969. Some things are still the same, like Coney Island Hot Dogs, and some are totally different. Each time I come back, I enjoy the hot dogs, I go by to see the house on Winchester Road, and I try to eat at Gehauf’s. Now it is more difficult because I have been living outside the United States since 1997.
AM: You have travelled extensively. Did you see much of the US?
PS: I was lucky to be able to visit the capital cities in 49 of the 50 states. I haven’t yet been to Alaska, but I will some day. My thought was that I wanted to see everything I could here before I went anywhere else. And I was able to see much of Canada and a little of Mexico before I left North America.
AM: You did some volunteer work in Kyrgyzstan in 1995. Why there?
PS: I had semi-retired. I was trying to decide what I would do next. One day I saw an ad in the Wall Street Journal of a company seeking volunteers to help with bank practices and accounting in developing countries. It sounded interesting and I called. They thought I was well qualified and asked if I would go to Kyrgyzstan. I said, “Where is it?” They suggested I look at a globe and go to the other side of it from Los Angeles and that would be Kyrgyzstan. They were right and I went for a month. And I loved every day of that trip.
AM: Did you do more volunteer work?
PS: I did. From 1995 to early 1997, there were several trips. I got to stop in Russia for a few days and visit Red Square. I went to Kazakhstan and again to Kyrgyzstan. And I was then bitten by the travel bug and very attracted to Central Asia.
AM: How many countries have you visited?
PS: So far, I have been to 35 countries. My goal is to visit at least 100 and to visit all the continents. I am putting together another book about the White Lights experience and am gathering data about my life. Starting with the house on Winchester Road, there have been 56 places where I have lived for at least a month. I have worked for 34 different employers beginning with Henry Gehauf when I was eight years old. I have been involved in 43 different businesses starting with the newspaper route I had in Cresaptown and along Winchester Road. There have been many interesting things to see and do.
I am a tourist at heart and love going to new places. And I really enjoy travelling with Marina. She feels the same way about new places. And every time we visit a new country, she is like a kid in a candy store. She wants to see it all!
AM: Why so many different jobs and businesses?
PS: After I took all the aptitude tests in high school, the guidance counselor told me I would be involved in many different things. When I asked why, she said the tests reflected interest and a high level of skills in each of the areas tested. She told me I could probably have some success in whatever I attempted. I guess I took her seriously and tried as many things as possible. One thing I discovered is that I had trouble maintaining interest in situations that required no creativity. I got bored very quickly in anything that was repetitive.
AM: Would you consider yourself successful?
PS: In most ways, yes. I have been lucky to have some help from friends when I really needed it. Some of the business ventures had nice profits. Some were black holes that just sucked money into them. I have had to start over twice after losing everything. Right now I am doing well with business interests in Uruguay, Central Asia, and Russia. And I have been able to share some of it with my grandchildren. I will be comfortable when I finally decide to slow down - if I ever do. It is a nice feeling to have no debt.
And how do you measure success? I still have my principles that I refuse to allow to be compromised. I have wonderful friends - a few men but mostly women. My health is reasonably good. And I have done many things and gone to many places while others only dream.
AM: How did the book, Devil’s Gates, get started? PS: I developed a cataract and it was getting to the point that I was losing the vision in my right eye. During the period I was in Iraq, it developed very quickly. So I decided to have the lens replaced. After that operation, the doctors discovered the retina was more than 90% detached. That required an immediate operation which re-attached the retina and brought back part of the vision in that eye. Unfortunately, the surgery wasn’t totally successful. I needed three more operations to attempt to have the retina totally attached. After the third operation, I was still in the hospital and had extreme pain. The shot I was given for the pain was very strong. I had the most vivid dream of my life. It was in Technicolor and the events were all very clear. When I woke in the morning, I remembered the specific details of that dream and immediately made notes. When I finished the notes, there were 41 written pages. Those notes formed the basis for the book.
AM: Are the characters in the book really fictional?
PS: Most of them. Many of the names are Welsh descendents who actually existed among my family and relatives. Some are actual people from history. Some of the characters lived on Winchester Road. But the main characters, David, Rebecca, and Colonel Stone, are purely fictional. They are based on people I know but I didn’t use their real names.
Rebecca and Colonel Stone will be the main characters to sequels I am writing now. When the trilogy is complete, their lives will each be better understood.
The characters do reflect many of the people I have known in Western Maryland. I hope the various bits and pieces of history of the area trigger positive memories for the readers of the way things used to be.
AM: Is the artwork on the cover one of your drawings?
PS: Yes. I have been drawing since school. It started with doodling and is now concentrated on pen and ink drawings. I also did some substitute teaching of art classes when I lived in Maine. I am going through my travel journals and my photos to look at sights that I would like to capture in a drawing. Someday there will be a drawing from each of the countries visited. I have several dozen completed. Eventually I hope to have enough to do some kind of exhibition.
AM: Other than wanting to travel to 100 countries and do an art exhibition, is there anything else you want to do that you haven’t done?
PM: Life has been good! I have had some great fun along this road so far. I live by one rule - life is not a dress rehearsal and we only get to do this once. So I decided I want to go first class and have as much fun as possible. And to help as many people as I can during the travels.
There are two things I specifically want to do before I finish this trip. The first is to conduct a symphony orchestra. The second is to do a half-hour standup comedy routine. Oh, yes, and celebrate my 100th birthday with some of my friends! I might make it as long as I don’t get shot by a jealous husband.
PHILIP W. SMITH 10/1 Tchayanov St., #62 Moscow 125047 Russia Home Telephone +7 495 251-0535 Moscow Mobile + 7 985 104 8397 E-mail [email protected]
SYNOPSIS: Strong leadership, management and teaching capabilities developed during many years’ experience in financial management, accounting, taxation, business planning, operational strategy, and risk-based lending. Skilled in economic and operational evaluations and assessments of banking sectors in several countries. Skilled in all facets of International Financial Reporting Standards (formerly International Accounting Standards), financial statement analysis, and risk management. Familiar with all aspects of financial and non-financial institution management (central and commercial banks) with emphasis on accounting and lending.
CURRENT POSITION: 11/06 to present PricewaterhouseCoopers Moscow, Russia Team leader for a 27-month EU funded project on transition to IFRS in the banking sector. Primary beneficiary is the Central Bank of Russia with commercial banks as additional beneficiaries. Project includes training 3,000 accounting specialists in all regions of the country to prepare IFRS compliant bookkeeping and accounting from the transaction level through the preparation of the financial statements. Also includes a review of all normative guidelines to assist in the preparation of instructions and regulations necessary for the commercial banks to comply with IFRS. In addition, the project includes study tours, maintenance of a project website, and translation of all training materials for all standards applicable to the sector.
PRIOR PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: 10/06 Centurion Capital Moscow, Russia Review of internal controls and loan portfolio for one-year old organization providing wholesale lending to credit unions throughout Russia. Short-term assignment for this USAID funded project included meetings with all personnel and a review of the accounting systems plus training necessary for the preparation of IFRS financial statements based upon a transformation from Russian Accounting Standards (RAS).
10/06 to 11/06 National Bank of Serbia, Bank Training Academy Belgrade, Serbia Preparation and presentation of six seminars on the application of IFRS to 150 commercial bank and central bank accounting specialists. Additional seminars will be presented in 2007.
9/04 to 6/06 FINCA International Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and Kabul, Afghanistan In Kyrgyzstan, Transformation Manager and Interim Chief Financial Officer for this commercial operation to convert an existing micro-credit operation into a deposit gathering finance company or bank under the supervision of the central bank. Responsible for assisting the country director in the selection of new lending and savings products, hiring and training new personnel, and preparing policies and procedures (including risk management) necessary for compliance with central bank. Assistance also provided for the business planning and filing of applications with the central bank. Also assisted in the preparation of a marketing plan and the implementation of a training program. The existing operation of 20 branches covering all provinces and a total of 375 employees in-country was re-engineered to provide new locations for retail operations and the addition of staff to continue to provide quality service and become a major influence in the financial sector in Kyrgyzstan.
In Afghanistan, Acting Chief Financial Officer for a government funded microfinance operation with funding and grant commitments of $29 million. Responsibilities involve overseeing and bringing up-to-date the monthly financial reporting to headquarters in Washington, DC plus local governmental agencies. The operation currently has three regional operations with the installation and training of a new computer system as one of the CFOs duties. Hiring and training of data entry personnel, cashiers, junior, senior, regional, chief accountant, and CFO was also part of the responsibility.
8/04 to 6/06 Rural Credit Cooperative Development Foundation Moscow, Russia Serve as a volunteer member representing the US Department of Agriculture on the governing council of this Foundation that serves hundreds of rural credit cooperatives in all provinces of Russia. Responsibilities include attendance and participation in regularly scheduled council meetings normally held in Moscow.
7/03 to 12/05 Financial Solutions Group Moscow, Russia As founder, chairman and majority-owner of this financial services firm in Moscow, represented the firm as senior member of management and as a lecturer on transformation from Russian Accounting Standards to IFRS and other management seminars to accounting specialists at licensed commercial banks in Russia. The training was presented to more than 200 commercial banks and involved trainers who operated in Moscow and in all regions within Russia.
7/04 to 9/04 Adam Smith International Baghdad, Iraq Senior consultant to DFID funded project assisting the new interim government of Iraq in establishing the offices of the Prime Minister, President, Council of Ministers, and Ministry of Finance. Specific responsibility included assistance in the accounting and reporting of each of the three offices to the Ministry of Finance (July 2004). Also responsible for assistance to the Ministry of Finance for discussions to begin the process of annual reporting by the government in accordance with international public sector accounting standards. In addition, assisted the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq in the establishment of the budget, record keeping systems and reporting requirements for this new independent governmental entity that conducted the first elections for the new government (August-September 2004).
4/04 to 8/04 KPMG Moscow, Russia Senior advisor of World Bank funded assessment of the banking sector for the Ministry of Finance. Specific responsibilities involved analyses of causes, resolutions and lessons learned plus quantitative and qualitative indicators of worldwide banking sector crises during the last thirty years. The assessment included indicators and variables which can be used to anticipate scenarios for impact on the economy, analysis of systemic risks, and the development of an early warning system to predict potential systemic crises in the Russian banking sector. Report accepted by the Ministry of Finance in October 2004.
6/03 to 7/03 Adam Smith International Basra, Iraq Resident Advisor: Responsible for economic analysis, evaluation, assessment and support for the financial sector of Southern Iraq working as secondee to the British Army (DFID-funded) and Coalition Provisional Authority in the four southern provinces of Iraq. Assisted in the re-opening of the Basra branch of the Central Bank of Iraq and 23 branches of the state-owned Rasheed and Rafidain Banks in the four provinces. Also re-established the payment systems for 80,000 pensioners, 158,000 government and state-owned enterprise employees, and more than 30,000 military personnel.
9/02 to 5/03 Adam Smith International Kabul, Afghanistan Resident Advisor: Responsible for accounting support with DFID (UK) contractor on the capacity building project for the Ministry of Finance/Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The project included assisting in the introduction of new accounting standards (based on IFRS), a new chart of accounts and the completion of the first IAS (IFRS) training in the country in twenty-three years to senior accounting staff at the central bank. It also involved assessment and evaluation of the commercial banks of the country, assisting in the preparation of policies, standards and procedures at the central bank, assisting in the preparation of the current year financial statements, and working with bank personnel of commercial banks to begin the process of implementation of new accounting standards for financial and management reporting.
8/01 to 9/02 BearingPoint, Inc. (KPMG Consulting, Inc.) Podgorica, Montenegro (12/01 to 9/02) Resident Advisor: Responsible for accounting support to the Financial Sector Reform project under a USAID contract at the Central Bank of the Republic of Montenegro. The project included work on the development of a new chart of accounts for the central bank and commercial banks and assistance in conversion to International Accounting Standards (IAS). It involved training of senior management and senior accounting staff at commercial banks plus accounting, operations and supervision personnel of the central bank, assisting in the preparation of accounting policies, instructions and procedures for the banking sector, and working with bank personnel of commercial banks to insure the complete implementation of new accounting standards for financial and management reporting.
8/01 to 12/01 Yerevan, Armenia Resident Advisor: Responsible for accounting support to the Economic Sector Reform project under a USAID contract at the Central Bank of the Republic of Armenia. The project included work on the development of a new chart of accounts and assistance in conversion to International Accounting Standards (IAS). It involved training of senior management and senior accounting staff, assisting in the preparation of policies, standards and procedures at the central bank, and working with bank personnel of commercial banks to insure the complete implementation of new accounting standards for financial and management reporting.
3/00 to 8/01 DEVELOPMENT ALTERNATIVES, INC. Moscow, Russia Chief of Party and Resident Advisor: Responsible for all phases of the USAID Bank Accounting Reform project based in the Central Bank of Russia. The primary project included assistance to the Central Bank on development of guidelines and Accounting Standards for compliance with IAS. Served as advisor to the Chief Accountant on Central Bank accounting issues. Another component was work with Moscow-based and regional pilot banks to prepare IAS compliant statements. Developed and presented eleven seminars on conversion from Russian Accounting Standards to IAS in Moscow and regional centers to hundreds of Central Bank and commercial bank personnel. Also worked with bank liquidation agency, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Taxation. The project was expanded to include multiple visits of international economic experts for consultation with presidential advisors before and after the 2000 election. It also included a major economic research project (by the Higher School of Economics) relating to profitability of state-owned enterprises.
6/97 to 2/00 INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS & TECHNICAL CONSULTANTS, INC. Almaty, Kazakhstan (11/98 to 2/00) Resident Accounting Advisor: Responsible for accounting advice to the National Bank of Kazakhstan on revision of accounting standards, guidelines, instructions and a new chart of accounts to assist commercial banks in the conversion to IAS. Primary work of this USAID Banking Reform project focused on the commercial pilot banks with
successful conversion of banks holding more than 75% of the assets in the banking sector. Developed and presented bank accounting training classes. Conducted training using computer simulation modeling for management of banks. Coordinated banking sector taxation issues with Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Taxation.
6/97 to 10/98 Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan Resident Accounting Advisor: Responsible for accounting advice to commercial banks and the National Bank of Kyrgyzstan on conversion to IAS by revision of accounting standards, guidelines, instructions and a new chart of accounts. This project was used by USAID as an example of success in Central Asia and was the model for other projects funded by the agency. All commercial banks participated in the program. All chief accountants and more than 50% of accounting specialists within the commercial banks attended various training programs developed and presented during the period. Advisor to Ministry of Taxation project on banking sector tax and accounting issues.
7/94 to 5/97 FINANCIAL CONSULTANT California Consulting to government contractors, agencies, businesses and individuals for accounting, planning, lending and taxation in United States, Mexico, and Canada. Contracts included assistance to financial institutions and government agencies utilizing classroom training and on-site analysis of existing financial and operating systems. Other contracts involved preparation of business plans and operating strategies for small and medium sized businesses. Owned two high-performance H&R Block franchises (sold 5/97) that served over 2,500 clients during the 1997 tax season. Successfully completed more than 200 tax audits including several appeals with Internal Revenue Service.
9/92 to 7/94 LONG BEACH BANK Orange, California Vice President, Major Loan Group: Responsible for all loan-servicing functions of $600 million portfolio. Duties included workouts and restructure of problem assets and the management and sale of real estate owned by the bank. Responsible for preparation of monthly internal classifications and risk rating of loans. Involved in the assistance to over 400 borrowers for damages caused by the Northridge earthquake in January 1994. Assistance included immediate assessment of damages, postponement of debt service and restructure of some loans with help of federal emergency assistance personnel.
11/91 to 8/92 UNIVERSAL SAVINGS BANK Orange, California Senior Vice President, Chief Lending Officer: Responsible for all lending functions of well capitalized $260 million institution. Member of all senior committees. Assisted in the preparation of business and strategic plans utilizing simulation models. Initiated policies and procedures regarding all phases of real estate and consumer lending, interest rate risk analysis, and internal asset review.
6/90 to 11/91 FINANCIAL CONSULTANT Diamond Bar, California Provided due diligence to institutional buyers of assets from failed/weak institutions. Performed contract-underwriting services for single-family, multifamily and commercial loans for savings institutions and mortgage banking firms. Prepared valuation analyses and problem asset resolution plans for law firms, banks and savings institutions. Assisted the Resolution Trust Corporation in investigation of loan broker problems at failed institutions.
3/85 to 6/90 HUNTINGTON SAVINGS AND LOAN ASSOCIATION Huntington Beach, California Senior Vice President, Chief Lending Officer: Responsible for all lending functions of $125 million publicly traded savings institution, including origination, processing, closing and servicing. Duties included responsibility for secondary mortgage marketing and establishing construction lending and fund control operations. As #2 in management, was responsible for accounting functions and supervision of the accounting department. Prepared all strategic and operating plans. Completely restructured the loan portfolio from major construction participations to internally generated loan originations. Reduced problem assets from 55% to less than 5%. Worked closely with underwriters, regulators and examiners on recapitalization of institution.
3/85 to 7/85 Founder and President (Fidelity Savings Corporation) of privately owned mortgage banking firm. Originated, processed and closed many types of real estate loans. Consultant to secondary marketing and mortgage banking departments of financial institutions. Activities of firm were transferred to Huntington Savings as part of purchase of the business.
1/84 to 2/85 ENCINO SAVINGS AND LOAN ASSOCIATION Sherman Oaks, California Major Loan Officer: Responsible for establishment of new major loan operations including origination, processing and closing of construction and permanent loans for single family subdivisions, condos, office buildings, industrial buildings, shopping centers, acquisition and development, apartments and land loans. Also involved in secondary marketing of loans prior to funding and establishment of construction fund control procedures. Pipeline increased from zero to over $75 million with $60 million funded during the first year.
6/72 to 12/83 ACCOUNTING AND FINANCIAL CONSULTING PRACTICES Scarborough, Maine and Walnut, California Heavy emphasis on business and strategic plans for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) through Small Business Administration loan programs. Performed accounting for real estate developers with involvement in syndication and placement of partnerships, joint ventures, HUD programs, construction budgeting and inspection. Established second mortgage operation. Extensive work for the US Bankruptcy Court as Trustee (handling over 300 cases in three years), receiver, court-appointed accountant in Chapter XI cases, and consultant to the Court. Annually prepared over 400 tax returns for businesses and individuals.
Prior to 1972
Held positions in Washington, DC with accounting firms specializing in audits of banks and savings institutions. Also controller of manufacturing firm, worked for Sears Roebuck (assistant credit manager), Montgomery Ward (head of bookkeeping department for regional credit center serving Baltimore and Washington) and treasurer of subsidiary of Ogden Corp (Fortune 500 company).
LANGUAGES: English - native Russian - conversational
31 Aug 2007