Robert Haldane Smith, Baron Smith of Kelvin KT grew up in the Maryhill district of Glasgow and was educated at Allan Glen's School, Glasgow. After leaving school in 1963, he failed his first-year English exams at the University of Glasgow. He turned to a career in accountancy and was articled to Robb Ferguson & Company and qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1968.
He moved to ICFC, later known as 3i, until 1982 and joined the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1983. From 1985 to 1989 he was managing director of Charterhouse Development Capital Ltd. He also held the posts of chairman and CEO with Morgan Grenfell Private Equity, CEO of Morgan Grenfell Asset Management and was Vice Chairman of its successor, Deutsche Asset Management, between 2000 and 2002.
He is a former Governor of the British Broadcasting Corporation. He was knighted in 1999, appointed to the House of Lords as an independent cross-bench peer in 2008, and appointed Knight of the Thistle in 2013.
He has held various positions as Director of MFI Furniture Group plc, Stakis plc (where he was also chairman from 1998 to 1999), the Bank of Scotland, Tip Europe plc and Network Rail. He was a member of the Financial Services Authority from 1997 to 2000 and is a member of the Financial Reporting Council. As Chairman of the FRC Group on Audit Committees Combined Code Guidance he was responsible for The Smith Report (2003). He was Chairman of the Smith Group (advising Scottish Government on educational issues, especially 16- to 19-year-olds not in education, employment or training). He was also Chairman of Scottish and Southern Energy, The Weir Group plc and a non-Executive Director of Standard Bank Group Limited. He was also Patron of Foundation Scotland until 2015.
On 8 February 2008, Smith was appointed as Chair of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games organising company. He was announced as the first Chair of the British Green Investment Bank in May 2012.
Lord Smith of Kelvin serves as Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde and Chair of the British Government-backed Green Investment Bank. He is Chairman of IMI plc, Alliance Trust PLC and Forth Ports Limited.
Smith has been conferred honorary degrees by the Universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and also Paisley, where he was installed as Chancellor in 2003 serving for 10 years. On 19 September 2014, he was appointed as Chair of the newly-formed Scotland Devolution Commission by Prime Minister David Cameron.
He is married and has two daughters. Lord and Lady Smith own the island of Inchmarnock, situated off the west coast of the Isle of Bute in the Firth of Clyde, where he breeds Highland cattle and he also owns a vineyard and guest house in South Africa.