Synergent’s mission is to ‘help credit unions succeed and improve the financial lives of their members.’ In our monthly Employee Spotlight series, we feature one of our dedicated staff members to help you get to know the people who are working as an extension of your credit union team.
Tim Brooks, Vice President – Marketing at Synergent, has officially been part of the Synergent family for five years, but he worked alongside Synergent and the Maine Credit Union League’s Corporate Marketing departments in a consulting capacity for eight years prior. Brooks joined the enterprise in 2018, filling the role of Debra Trautman, who had been his primary contact throughout his years of consulting.
“I started as a lawyer, practicing in both Washington, D.C. and Portland,” explained Brooks. “In the early days of the internet, I co-founded an internet service provider where we had a bank of modems businesses could call into to access the internet—yes, I’m that old. After selling that business, I joined a marketing firm, then became a vice president of a dotcom during the dotcom boom. When that went dotbust, I started my own digital marketing company.”
This experience led Brooks to develop a working relationship with Synergent and the Maine Credit Union League.
“Sometime around 2010, I began working with Synergent and the League as a consultant,” said Brooks. “I worked with them through the strategic planning, design, and development of three websites and worked with Synergent on marketing through other digital channels. Although most of my contact was with Debra Trautman, the Vice President of Marketing, I worked closely with a number of people here at Synergent and the League.”
Pieces continued falling into place for Brooks to settle into a role within Synergent, as his connection to the company remained strong through changes in his workplace.
“In 2014, I merged my company with VONT, a digital consulting company based in Westbrook, Maine, and took on the role of Director of Client Web Strategy,” described Brooks. “During that time, I continued my work with Synergent and the League. Then in early 2018, Debra told me she was leaving the organization, and I submitted my name for consideration as a replacement. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to be given the opportunity to join the enterprise.”
Since joining, his role has shifted quite a bit through multiple stages of reorganization within the company. Initially, his sole responsibility was Synergent’s Corporate Marketing department, but soon after starting with Synergent, he assumed all League communications and outreach, as well—including the Statewide Awareness Campaign, the Maine Credit Unions’ Campaign for Ending Hunger, and the League’s financial literacy initiatives. However, with the marketing and sales teams working so closely together, it made sense for Brooks to oversee the Sales department, too.
“Ultimately, leadership made the decision to divide Synergent and League responsibilities, placing League Communications and Outreach under the management of individuals focused exclusively on the League, and combining our Corporate Marketing and Marketing Services teams,” explained Brooks. “The transitions have all been logical, and in the end, I have gone from overseeing only Synergent Corporate Marketing to being in charge of Synergent Corporate Marketing, Sales, and Marketing Services.”
Making an Impact on Credit Unions, One Day at a Time
With so many teams to manage and support, Brooks’ days are busy and can vary largely from one day to the next.
“What makes a day typical for me is its atypicality,” said Brooks. “I oversee Synergent’s Corporate Marketing, Sales, and Marketing Services—the group that helps credit unions with targeted marketing and communications campaigns—teams. I also am responsible for the League’s Statewide Awareness Campaign. Working in so many roles means I need to work with people from multiple parts of the enterprise throughout the day, changing hats frequently. It also means any number of unanticipated issues can pop up during the day that need fairly immediate attention. I like to look at each day as a new adventure.”
Brooks has been drawn to more creative, adventurous work since he was young. He was a photographer in high school and started college as a photography major.
“When my camera was stolen, I switched to political science because I thought a major in English was impractical,” reflected Brooks. “But I’ve always enjoyed creativity—creativity in imagery, in writing, in messages, in concepts. Marketing gives me a creative outlet, allowing me to use that creative energy in positive ways. I’ve only recently started working with Synergent’s Marketing Services department, but I enjoy watching the individuals in that group do the same for our credit unions. With Sales, I’m more behind the scenes, but my philosophy has never been that sales is about selling. It’s about creating relationships—establishing partnerships. It’s about helping a credit union improve the way it serves its members even before it becomes a Synergent client.”
He feels strongly that the work done in marketing and sales is intended to help credit unions understand that Synergent stands out from other organizations in how it offers services aimed at making credit unions more efficient, enabling them to focus on what is most important to them: improving the financial lives of their members.
“My role does impact our credit unions, but I would like to think it also has an impact on our credit union members,” said Brooks. “The data mining work we do in our Marketing Services department doesn’t just benefit the credit unions we partner with. It benefits the members they serve. Whether it’s a car loan, a digital banking product, or keeping a credit card top-of-wallet, everything we help a credit union communicate to their members is for the benefit of their members.”
The goal is to reach beyond credit unions and their existing members, too, capturing the attention and interest of prospective members.
“Beyond that, I am hoping the work I do has an impact on consumers,” explained Brooks. “Credit unions really are the best option when consumers are choosing a financial partner. If our Statewide Awareness Campaign in Maine can help drive consumers to credit unions, it’s another way in which we’re helping to improve people’s financial lives.”
Brooks advocates that none of this success is solely his. The coordination and cooperation between the multiple teams he previously oversaw and/or currently oversees is crucial to operations running as smoothly as they do.
“Everything we do is a team effort, particularly on my various teams, and it’s hard to pick out one thing that I’m most proud of,” described Brooks. “We responded to the pandemic extremely well, rapidly changing our consumer marketing messaging and getting an email with critical pandemic-related information out to CEOs and others every night for several weeks. With the help of Sarah Farwell, our Content Marketing Manager, we changed the voice of Synergent’s marketing messaging to one that first and foremost acknowledges credit union needs. Through Jake Holmes, our Financial Literacy Outreach Coordinator, we have expanded what we do for the state around financial education. And Jen Burke, now the League’s Assistant Vice President of Communications and Outreach, extended the voice, face, and public perception of the League and Maine’s credit unions far beyond anything we’ve had in the past. We couldn’t do any of it as efficiently, of course, without Lauren McCallum, our Corporate Marketing Coordinator.
“But I am probably most proud of the Real Member Story initiative we have developed as part of the Statewide Awareness Campaign and the six (and counting) television ads we have produced so far. They are powerful ads that let members do the talking about how credit unions have been there to support them, and they are beautifully done. In all fairness, our Creative Marketing Manager, Mike Rosmus, has overseen the production of those ads, but, like I said, everything here is a team effort.”
That said, some projects have stood out to Brooks more than others. One of his passions is advocating for the Campaign for Ending Hunger, the Maine Credit Unions’ sole social responsibility initiative aimed at addressing the root causes of hunger across the state of Maine to ensure all Mainers have access to sufficient nutritious food.
“It’s not difficult to identify the highlight of my career at Synergent and the League: watching the Maine Credit Unions Campaign for Ending Hunger surpass $1,000,000 raised in a single year,” reflected Brooks. “Jen Burke has been overseeing the Campaign for years, and I’ve always been pessimistic about reaching our goals. Jen has always been positive the Campaign donations would come in. This past year, even Jen wasn’t sure. When Jen told me we’d passed $1,000,000 for 2022, I became emotional. When it was unveiled to our credit unions at the annual Ending Hunger fundraising celebration in February, I became emotional again. Every credit union in the state participates in the efforts to wipe out hunger in Maine, and I have trouble finding the words to describe how inspiring their collective efforts and their united passion for this cause are.”
The Campaign is a key way the credit union industry in Maine displays the People Helping People philosophy in action. This dedication to supporting local communities is something that connects Brooks to the credit union movement in a way that makes him thrilled to work alongside credit unions day-to-day.
“Before I began working at Synergent and the League, I was aware of the differences between credit unions and other financial institutions,” explained Brooks. “But I will be honest, I was not aware of the depth and importance of that difference, and I have developed a true passion for the credit union movement. I’m not embarrassed to say what credit unions do for their members and their communities can bring me to tears—their collaborative work to end hunger, their dedication to improving the lives of people who aren’t even members of their credit unions, their tireless work to help people throughout the state work their way out of difficult financial times. I’m in awe of the work our credit unions do, and I’m enormously proud to be part of the industry.”
For Brooks, the industry and his job would not be the same without the people working with him.
“Everyone says, ‘It’s the people,’” said Brooks. “When asked why you like your job, it’s the overwhelmingly standard answer: ‘It’s the people.’ But let me tell you: it’s the people. It says something about my age, but I left law school 34 years ago, and I’ve never had the pleasure and honor of working with such a wonderful group of people. Never. They are dedicated, honest, supportive, and fun to be around. There have been times over the last five years when I’ve had to be out of the office for extended periods of time—sometimes suddenly—and I knew everyone would have it covered. I could focus on what was truly important, and I didn’t have to worry about what was happening here. We have each other’s backs. I’ve never had that before.”
Brooks enjoys some well-deserved relaxation when not working tirelessly for Synergent’s credit unions.
“It’s rather cliché to say when I’m not at work, ‘I enjoy long walks on the beach,’ but it’s true,” said Brooks. “I thoroughly enjoy taking my two-year-old English Springer Spaniel, Aengus, for off-leash beach romps as well as hikes in the woods. He and I are hoping to take a couple of camping trips this summer. I also enjoy building stone walls for gardens around my house, although I’m running out of space in the yard. Beyond that, my wife and I enjoy good food and dine out often at the great restaurants in the Portland area. We also eat well at home, since she’s an absolutely terrific cook, and I’ve become masterful at washing dishes.”