In this edition of Get to Know the Snodgrass Team we interviewed Dr. John Brooks, Ed.D., CPA, Principal, Consulting Group.
You earned three degrees, including a doctorate. What motivated you to continue your education beyond a bachelor’s degree?
I didn’t really plan to get a doctorate way back when I finished my bachelor’s degree. It kind of just evolved. I have always believed in the concept of “lifetime learning” though. It’s not as if you stop learning things when you graduate from high school or an undergraduate program. A day rarely goes by that I don’t learn something new or discover a different way of looking at things. I have always learned best in a collaborative environment where I can bounce ideas off of others and discuss concepts, so pursuing advanced degrees in a formal academic setting seemed like a good path for me. But probably the main reason for me getting a doctorate was my passion for teaching. The degree was instrumental in allowing me to take advantage of adjunct teaching opportunities at different colleges over my career. I want to emphasize though, that the degree is not “the thing.” It’s about continuing to learn as you develop personally and professionally in whatever learning format fits you best. Sometimes that leads to academic degrees, sometimes not.
How has serving as an accounting professor helped you in your career at Snodgrass?
I think it has benefited me in several ways. I have primarily taught business and accounting classes, so just the act of preparing for my lessons has helped me to keep current on what is going on in the accounting and business worlds. That has been extremely valuable in providing advice to clients on current and evolving issues. Secondly, my experience as a professor has helped me with conducting staff training activities at Snodgrass. Teaching is the art of transferring an idea or an understanding of a concept from one person to another. Attempting to teach a class of business students brought me to understand that one size does not fit all when it comes to teaching methods. Different students learn in different ways. My teaching experience has helped me to gain an understanding of which methods work best with different topics and with different student learning profiles. I have been able to apply that understanding while training Snodgrass staff on sometimes complex banking topics.
You were involved with the design of Snodgrass’s Enterprise Risk Management process. What makes Snodgrass’s approach to/process of ERM unique?
Well, I’m glad you asked! 😊 When we began exploring ERM as a potential Snodgrass service, we found that most other service providers at that time tried to reduce ERM to a series of checklists with “yes” and “no” answers that purported to result in an accurate assessment of an organization’s risk profile. We had serious problems with that approach and knew intuitively that, to be effective, a risk management process had to be much more institutionally and culturally specific to the organization. So we began working on our own solution. And I say “we” because I did not develop our services by myself. It was truly a collaborative effort with other Snodgrass Principals and staff.
We developed a program that, from the beginning, is tailored to fit each client’s unique risk exposure and, in that regard, is unique even among Snodgrass clients that use our services. There are no checklists or yes/no answers. We start with gaining an understanding of clients’ strategic objectives and then, through facilitation, help them to identify what significant risks will be in their way as they attempt to implement their strategic initiatives. By integrating an organization’s strategic plan with its risk management program, the clients using our approach have assurance that they are measuring the risks that matter the most to their business model. It also provides them with insight to better leverage their strategic opportunities as well as mitigate strategic risks.
Of course, another thing that makes our ERM solution unique is the unmatched level of client service that comes with our ERM program. We can tailor the solution to meet the client’s needs. Some clients just use our framework and run their programs entirely on their own while others rely on us to both implement and oversee their risk management program.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I don’t know if there is just one thing that I enjoy the most from my work at Snodgrass. My career here has allowed me to achieve many personal and professional accomplishments, both of which have brought me personal satisfaction. If I had to pick one though, I’d say the thing I enjoy most about my job is the feeling of satisfaction I get when I know that I have really helped a client solve a problem. In the consulting division, clients usually only call on us when they have a unique problem that they have to solve. I used to think that might be a negative thing but soon came to appreciate that, by helping a client to get over an obstacle they are facing, we do much more than just that. We build relationships and trust levels that can last for decades.
What do think are the most significant risks facing community banks today?
I think the biggest issue that community banks are facing today is not terribly different from what is faced by companies in other industries. It is the risk of keeping themselves relevant in a world that is changing at a rapid pace. From evolving customer preferences for services and delivery channels to the way we process transactions, everything is changing quickly and new competitors are entering what was formerly a “bank only” space. I think the risk is that some community banks may not respond to these changes rapidly enough to prevent themselves from losing franchise value to larger traditional competitors and the rapidly emerging fintech industry. To mitigate this risk, community banks should ensure that they have open lines of communication with their core customer base and have adequate processes and systems in place to respond to their changing needs in a timely fashion.
What are your outside interests?
Well, when we used to be allowed to have outside interests, I enjoyed getting outdoors and visiting with friends and family as much as possible. With the pandemic, obviously engaging in activities outside of our immediate families has been severely restricted. Fortunately, I am kind of a nerd and many things that I like to do in my free time don’t involve interacting with large groups of people outside of my family and circle of friends. A typical “free day” for me would involve working on one of our never-ending house projects, playing my guitar, reading a book, or taking a long walk in the woods around our house. One exception is that my wife and I really enjoy live theatre and we can’t wait for that to come back! Also, although I never got very good at it, I enjoy skiing and that has given me something to do with my son and daughter this past COVID winter.
The Snodgrass team are industry-recognized experts who are highly sought after as speakers and trainers and for their leadership. Stay tuned for our next edition and get to know other members of our team!