Scott Smith sums up his pivotal stint as chief executive of Fulton Financial (FULT) in blunt historical terms.

Smith, who retired this month, took the helm of the Lancaster, Pa., company in 2006, right before the housing collapse and the financial crisis. Though Fulton's job seemed safe, the roller-coaster ride was jolting, Smith says.

"I compare it to someone who always wanted to be a general and, once promoted, was sent immediately to the Russian front," says Smith, who joined the $16.5 billion-asset company in the late 1970s. "I learned a lot of things working through those difficult times. You have to be realistic and have the confidence that you can get to the other side."

Though he has retired and Philip Wenger is the company's new CEO, Smith plans to remain active in banking. In addition to staying on Fulton's board, Smith is a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. "I'm busy, but I don't have the pace I had a month or so ago," he says.

Smith also has commitments with the Lancaster Museum of Art, where he is a life trustee,  but he hopes to spend more time working on a dairy farm in Holtwood, Pa., that was deeded to his family by an officer from the Revolutionary War. "I'll remain active, but not to the point where I feel I'm driving myself all the time," he says.

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