Employee Spotlight | Jeff Barnett

Employee Spotlight | Jeff Barnett



Danielle: How did you come to Merriman?

Jeff: I went to school at Ohio State. After graduating, I stayed in Columbus and got a job at Ohio State in health care research. As a new employee, I had to figure out my benefit and retirement plan options, which I knew nothing about. I asked a friend about my benefits and he suggested I read A Random Walk Down Wallstreet, which first sparked my interest in personal finance. I then read a lot of books about saving and investing, including Paul Merriman’s books.

After moving to Seattle for a research job at Swedish in 2017, I saw Merriman was hiring and applied for the position. When I was thinking about changing careers, it was either Merriman or staying the course in research. I didn’t want to jump ship for some entry level sales role at a big bank, but I knew Merriman would be a great fit because I really identified with the philosophy and perspective Paul presented in his books. So far, I think I made the right choice.


Danielle: What do you do at Merriman and what do you love about working here?

Jeff: I’m an associate advisor, supporting both advisors and clients. I’m here to answer questions, expedite the process, and make sure nothing slips through the cracks. I love the collaborative experience of working with advisors and our client service team to help clients, and I love teaching clients about the technical side of investing.

It’s great to see how energized the long-time advisors are even though they’ve been doing this for a while. The relationships I’ve built with team members have also been really rewarding. I want to come to work every day, and really enjoy being here.


Danielle: Tell me about your family.

Jeff: My wife, Brooke, is currently working and living in Berlin. We’ve done long-distance before, but it’s still challenging being continents apart. I look forward to visiting Germany, and we are excited to use our apartment there as a home base for touring around Europe.

My parents live down in Florida now, my sister is still in Ohio, and my brother is in a residency program in New York. My whole family is from the east coast, so I’m used to being the farthest west. Seattle is just a little farther than Ohio!


Danielle: What are your hobbies?

Jeff: I have a close group of friends from college, guys I lived with in the dorms freshman and sophomore year, then on the same block off campus. Now that I have moved to Seattle, we all play videogames together online to stay connected. I’m sure my neighbors must hate listening to us shouting over voice chat!

I also try to enjoy what the Pacific Northwest has to offer. I’m usually city-bound, living in South Lake Union, but I try to get out of town with friends sometimes. I’ve started rock climbing with the encouragement of the Merriman team – especially Chris Waclawik and Paresh Kamdar. We have taken a trip out to the “Exits” and hit some of the rock gyms in Seattle. I also play pool locally with Phuc Dang, and he even convinced me to join his team for a session last year. We’d go play a few times a week—it was a lot of fun, and I had the chance to meet some new people.



Employee Spotlight | Kristi de Grys

Employee Spotlight | Kristi de Grys


Renske: What is your role at Merriman?

Kristi: I’m the Chief Operations Officer (COO) and Chief Investment Officer (CIO) at Merriman.

In my role as COO I have the responsibility, together with Jeremy Burger (Merriman CEO) and Tyler Bartlett (Director of Advisory Services), of the overall success of the firm. My main goal is to ensure we’re delivering a great experience for our clients and for our employees. That involves all aspects of the business, from benefits and a great office environment, to making sure our people have the right skills and tools to provide our clients with the best possible experience.

As CIO, I oversee the research team and am responsible for making sure we have the best investments available for our clients. In my time here at Merriman, I’ve helped launch several new funds in collaboration with Dimensional Fund Advisors, championed the widespread adoption of asset location across client accounts, and centralized trading and portfolio management functions.

Overall, my team and I are focused on delivering ever greater value through outstanding service, diversified investment offerings, and easy-to-use technology.


Renske: What is your favorite part of the work day?

Kristi: For me, it’s always about making connections with people and bringing out the best in others. Whether it’s for an employee or a client, knowing I’ve done something to elevate somebody else’s game is enough to send me home happy every time.


Renske: Tell me a little more about your family life

Kristi: My husband and I have been married since 1998, and together since 1994 – more than half my life! We have two children: Piper, who will be 12 next month, and Anders, who will be 10 in May. Spending time with them is something I truly love and enjoy.

As a family we love to play boardgames, and we’re big into cooking. Now that the kids are a little older, we have been able to do some grand travelling. We went to Australia last summer, and this year we’ll visit the Netherlands and Greece. We’re already planning next year’s trip to South Africa as well.

Renske: Any fun facts we should know?

Kristi: I own a flag that flew in the space shuttle…is that cool?

Renske: WHHAAT???

Kristi: I used to work in rocket science, and all rocket scientist have something that flew into space!


Employee Spotlight | Aries Lazaro

Employee Spotlight | Aries Lazaro

Shayar: What is your role at Merriman and what do you love about working here?

Aries: I am the Director of Finance and I oversee the financial reporting process for the firm. I really enjoy the nature of the work that we do at Merriman and collaborating with the rest of my coworkers to help our clients reach their goals is fulfilling.

The challenge of working under the umbrella of a public company, with the additional requirements and expectations, makes my days even more exciting.


Shayar: How do you spend your time outside of work?

Aries: I have three kids (aged 3,5 and 8), who keep me very busy outside of work. When time allows, all five of us like to travel and visit new places. Some of my favorite memories have been spending time with my wife, kids, parents and in-laws in Ireland (photo above), Scotland, Maui, Italy and France.


Shayar: What do you look forward to in 2020?

Aries: I look forward to new challenges and visiting some new places. I am hoping to take my wife and kids to the Philippines. My parents are from the Philippines and it’ll be great for my kids and wife to learn more about the country, the culture and the food. It’s even more exciting since this would be their first time visiting the Philippines!


Shayar: Merriman has employees take the StengthsFinder quiz so we can understand how to best work with each other. What are your top five strengths?

  • Activator: People exceptionally talented in the Activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They want to do things now, rather than simply talk about them.
  • Focus: Those that are exceptionally talented in the Focus theme can take a direction, follow through and make the corrections necessary to stay on track. They prioritize, then act.
  • Achiever: Those with the Achiever theme work hard and possess a great deal of stamina. They take immense satisfaction in being busy and productive.
  • Analytical: People exceptionally talented in the Analytical theme search for reasons and causes. They can think about all the factors that might affect a situation.
  • Significance: People exceptionally talented in the Significance theme want to make a big impact. They are independent and prioritize projects based on how much influence they will have on their organization or people around them.

While Aries shares these strengths with many others in the Merriman family, he appreciates the diversity in strengths, background, interests and perspectives that his coworkers bring.



Source of StrengthFinder definitions: https://www.gallup.com/workplace/245090/cliftonstrengths-themes-quick-reference-card.aspx

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!


2019 was a year of highs and lows, mixed economic numbers, political maneuverings, and ongoing recession worries. In other words, a fairly ordinary year in the late stage of an economic expansion.

We don’t yet know what 2020 will bring for the economy, for markets, or for our own lives. We can’t control what happens in markets or what happens in DC. But, we can control some things.

As we usher in a new year with great expectations, let’s take a moment to recommit to the factors we can control:

Harnessing the Power of Our Dreams

We know you don’t want to grow and protect your wealth just to have a big portfolio. Money is a tool that you can use to reach your aspirations, retire in comfort, create change in the world, and leave a legacy of love. It’s the desire to see you achieve your dreams that drives us to work tirelessly on behalf of our clients. Remembering your goals and keeping them close at hand will help you commit and achieve them.

Building Better Financial Behaviors

Too many investors focus on markets when they should focus on themselves, their hopes, their goals, and their dreams. Identifying the choices in our control isn’t just a good financial lesson, it’s a great life lesson, dating back to ancient Greece, when the Stoic philosopher Epictetus said:

“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control.”

Time in the Market, Not Timing the Market

The best day to invest in the market is the day after you get paid. The most potent factor you have as an investor is time. Markets are unpredictable, and those who jump in and out based on emotion or “gut feelings” about tops and bottoms typically do worst of all.

May you and your family enjoy all the warmth this season has to offer and a new year filled with love and success!

Employee Spotlight | Paresh Kamdar

Employee Spotlight | Paresh Kamdar

Aimee: How did you come to Merriman?

Paresh: While working at Charles Schwab as a Private Client Relationship Manager, I was helping clients find RIA firms that were a good fit for their personality. What I found was that the clients I sent to Merriman were happier, they never came back to me for another referral. I went to see Paul Merriman speak several times, and 13 years ago on the Friday after Thanksgiving, Jeff Merriman, Paul Merriman’s son, called and asked me to come to Merriman.

Aimee: Why did you say yes?

Paresh: I primarily came for the investment philosophy and after talking to clients who worked with Merriman, I felt there was a better way to measure client success than just the performance of funds.

Aimee: You are quite the adventurer, what’s the next adventure you are going on?

Paresh: My next vacation is a back-country skiing trip to the Valkyr Lodge in British Columbia with our best friends; it’s my favorite week of the year. We have been taking trips like this for 13 years now. We take a helicopter to access the Lodge and then spend the week connecting with friends, climbing and skiing. We bring in all our food and gear and every night we make dinner together. We are completely “off the grid” (and no WIFI) for the week.  The wood stove in the sauna heats up the water for a hot shower and we do have a satellite phone for weather information or emergencies.

Aimee: What is your favorite activity on a day off?

Paresh: That is seasonally dependent, but I like skiing, backpacking, climbing, and mountain biking with friends.

Aimee: Tell me about your family.

Paresh: My wife, Sibylle is a veterinarian. We have a dog, Bodie and he is a great little guy. We go camping with him a lot.  We’re also fortunate to have my folks, my brother, his wife, and their boys here in town.  We get to spend a lot of time together.

Aimee: Does your dog, Bodie, love to go camping?

Paresh: It’s probably more for our amusement. I think for him, his morning walk is the best.

Aimee: What’s your favorite food?

Paresh: It’s Pho season now! I am a lover of Vietnamese soup, ramen and tacos!

Aimee: What’s your favorite quote?

Paresh: Part of Attitude by Chuck Swindoll. “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life… Attitude is more important than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people say or do…We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing you can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”

Employee Spotlight | Michael Van Sant

Employee Spotlight | Michael Van Sant


Cara Van Sant, Wife

Caitlin (13), Daughter

Chris (11), Son

Olive the Havanese, family pet


Scott: Did you find the Finance industry, or did it find you?

Michael: I stumbled into it.  Obtaining a business degree was my top option and majoring in International business seemed exciting at the time, upon graduating in 1995 and not realizing how my major would fit into the working world. I attended a career conference, where I was pulled aside by a slick stockbroker (he was even wearing bulls & bears suspenders), who let me know I might have what it takes to be a great stockbroker.


Scott: What are the Aha moments that lead you to the Wealth Management path?

Michael: During the last half of the 1990’s I thought I was adequately diversifying my client’s portfolios with different US large company growth stocks. The dot-com bubble of the early-2000s taught me diversification needs to include numerous assets classes that have low correlations to one another

When I went to work for Charles Schwab in 2002, they had an unlimited number of clients for me to learn how investors thought and acted.  As an Advisor at Charles Schwab, I got a much better understanding of how thousands of investors made decisions.  Both good and bad decisions.


Scott: What has been the most significant mindset change you have experienced in your 25 years as an Advisor?

Michael: A better understanding of how to help my clients. Initially, my thinking was I could target individual stock positions, or that others could do this as well. The dot-com bust (200-2002) and great recession (2007-2009) opened my eyes to the worlds of behavioral finance, investor psychology and the importance of having a financial plan to guide investors through every type of stock market we encounter.  In the end, it is about balance.


Scott: When you are not analyzing portfolios or counseling clients, what do you like to do?

Michael: Spending time outdoors with loved ones and friends. My family enjoys camping, hiking, biking, and skiing.   We traveled to England and France for the first time this year as a family and we all loved it.  We will travel abroad more in the years to come.


Scott: Where are some of your favorite outdoor areas?

Michael: First and foremost, my favorite experiences are driven by the people I am with. On a recent trip to Cannon Beach where the campground wasn’t anything special, and the weather was horrific. It was three fun families that made this a wonderful trip!

P.S. – Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and Raging River


Scott: What are some hobbies you dabble in?

Michael: I dabble with the guitar and piano.  My daughter has been inspiring to get back into music.


Scott: Can we expect a family Van Sant tour?

Michael: Look for us at a campground tour near you.


Scott: What is one of your greatest passions?

Michael: To joyfully and curiously connect with others to make a difference in all of our lives.