This Commerce leader is ready to build the bank's digital future
Derrick Brooks is someone who knows what it feels like to be slightly ahead of his time.
In 2009, when he was a recent hire at a large stock brokerage firm, Brooks was presenting plans for a new mobile app to a group of the company’s senior leaders. The app, he explained, would revolutionize their business by allowing people to make stock trades and conduct the depth of research from anywhere.
“They didn’t think anybody would ever want to make trades on their phones,” says Brooks now. “I was shocked.”
Fortunately for his employers, Brooks was undeterred. “I was the new guy,” he explains, “so I thought, ‘Well, if they already had all the answers, they wouldn’t have felt a need to hire me.’” He spent months afterward having additional meetings with key stakeholders and building his case, slowly but surely.
His patience and determination paid off. “A year and a half later, we simultaneously introduced three mobile trading apps (an iOS app, Android app and a BlackBerry.) Trades through the mobile channel and overall mobile adoption went through the roof,” Brooks says. “Being able to change the minds of individuals and keep thinking ahead, then to see all the hard work come to life and resonate with customers – that’s still pretty sweet.”
These days, Brooks is applying his hard-earned expertise at Commerce Bank, having joined the company in early 2018. After spending his first few years leading the bank’s consumer digital strategy, he was recently promoted to the newly-created role of Executive Vice President, Enterprise Digital Strategy where he will help Commerce continue developing best-in-class digital tools across its consumer, wealth and commercial lines of business.
It’s a role Brooks is excited about, because he knows it will provide an opportunity to make the customer experience at Commerce even better than it is today. He also recognizes the high level of importance customers today are placing on digital access, and that his new position is indicative of the bank’s commitment to such a critical business area. “Digital tools were already important to our customers, but once the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, it created an even greater need and higher demand for digital solutions,” he says. “Our customers want to connect with us digitally and manage their financial lives that way, and it will continue to be a focus for us to help them do that.”
Brooks believes the experiences he’s had in his career will help him navigate any challenges ahead. “Those experiences have allowed me to work across a wide range of industries, technologies and organizational structures to deliver digital solutions,” he says. “I learned that to be successful, I had to be thoroughly prepared, ready to quickly adapt to dynamic situations and able to work well under tight deadlines. I leverage those experiences every day.”
Katy Dawes, a digital product manager at Commerce who has worked with Brooks for 11 years across two companies, says she’s excited to see what he’ll accomplish in the new role. “Derrick is a force to be reckoned with,” she says. “Everything he touches turns to gold. There are great expectations of him, but I’m sure he’ll have no issue whatsoever in not only meeting but also exceeding them.”
Dawes says one of the keys to Brooks’ success is that he is able to get the most out of the people who work alongside him. “What separates Derrick is that while he cares a lot about what we do, he cares much more about who we are,” she says. “I’ve always felt that he has found this magic formula where he expects a lot from those who work with and for him, but he also invests so much time back into us. I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot having him be the leader of my group.”
For his part, Brooks enjoys helping the members of his team develop their own careers. “I’m proud of the role I get to play in the growth and cultivation of staff,” he says. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with people and help them grow as they expand what they do. When someone on my team gets promoted, it’s always a proud moment for me. I like that part of my role.”
Going above and beyond his job description is something Brooks has always made a point of doing. Within Commerce, he is active in the bank’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, having served on the Inclusion and Diversity Council. In his new role, he will continue his DEI work at the highest levels of the organization. “It’s something I’m passionate about,” he says. “I’m looking forward to taking a formative role in the goals and objectives we set forth. We have an opportunity to create a cascading impact across the organization for many years to come. It’s important work.”
Brooks is involved with external groups as well. In 2020, for example, he was inducted into the Regional Business Council Young Professionals Network’s Leadership 100. He is also a Leadership St. Louis Program Alumnus of Focus St. Louis, an organization that helps diverse leaders connect with each other and develop their abilities. He says his work with Focus St. Louis was an incredible eye-opener for him.
“I learned so much about the challenges the St. Louis region faces,” he says. “I found myself wondering how I could live here my whole life and not see what was going on around me. I applaud that program for providing the structure to take a deep dive into the region’s challenges as well as what’s right about it. I’ve done some things to become active and participate that I would not have done if not for being a part of Focus St. Louis.”
It’s clear that Brooks brings a considerable depth and breadth of experiences to his new role leading Commerce’s digital strategy across its entire enterprise. And it’s a challenge he’s very much looking forward to.
“I’m excited to build things we can be proud of, and that our customers will rave about,” he says. “I want all of our customers to be brand advocates who are excited about interacting with Commerce Bank.”
Derrick Brooks has also recently been featured in the St. Louis Business Journal.