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

Family

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.

Employee Spotlight | Brian Woodward

Employee Spotlight | Brian Woodward

Scott: How did you come to Merriman?

Brian: My wife and I moved to Spokane in 2015. At the time, I was working remotely for an investment advisor in Seattle which is where we moved from. I left this relationship when they were requiring me to move back to Seattle to work. Our home was in Spokane now. I spent time searching for jobs in Spokane and didn’t know I would find a place as dandy as Merriman to work for. Once I found out Merriman was a Seattle based company in Spokane, it felt familiar to me.  I started working for Merriman in May of 2017.

 

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

Brian: My title is Client Service Account Specialist, but because of the smaller size of the Spokane office, I wear a number of hats. I do a fair amount of Associate Advisor work for the Advisors. I also do some operational and general office management work. I love the culture of Merriman and how the company treats its employees.

 

Scott: What is a fun fact about you?

Brian: We have 16 linear feet of vinyl records. We love checking out used record stores and finding little gems. We have a good-sized selection of popular rock from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. We have a substantial selection of blues and a huge selection of jazz.

 

Scott: What is your favorite food?

Brian: Pizza. It’s the food I can never pass up. If someone says, we’re having a get-together and we’re going to have pizza, then I’m like, “okay, I’m there”. My wife and I are pretty accomplished at cooking. We like to cook and entertain. We belonged to a food club in Seattle, and we have started to build a food club here in Spokane. It’s a way for us to build friendships in the community.

 

Scott: Tell me about your family.

Brian: My wife, Krista, and I do a lot together and love spending time with each other. We got married later in life, Krista was 36 and I was 43. We have now been married for 17 years. My wife is very outgoing, and I like to refer to her greatest strength as social glue. She is the person that connects everyone together, and I love her for it.

 

Scott: Anything you else you would like others to know about you?

Brian: Something else that has been a really big part of our lives is every year for the past 14 years, we get together with a group we call the Gordon Ranch Gang. We like to refer to the members of the ranch gang as our, “family of choice”. The gang is made up of people from all over the country. My sister-in-law has a family ranch in Montana, and we all rendezvous there for 2 weeks during the summer and go fishing, biking, and hiking. It’s an incredible time.

Client Service Account Specialists – Who are we and what do we do?

Client Service Account Specialists – Who are we and what do we do?

Our financial lives are like jigsaws with a thousand pieces that only fit together with thoughtful, precise coordination. Each part of the wealth management procedural process presents potential challenges like paperwork submissions, complex legal requirements, and complications when corresponding with other financial institutions. Merriman helps solve these challenges with the help of a professional team of advisors, researchers, and operations staff, with the client services department acting as the glue that holds it all together.

In a nut shell, client services act as a liaison between the client, the custodian, and the wealth advisor. Client services implements and executes everything that you have discussed with your advisor. They talk the talk—client services walks the walk!

In the face of all these hurdles, our goal in client services is to lift the weight off your shoulders by completing tasks in minutes that could take you hours spent on hold and getting bounced around thanks to our experience and relationships with other financial institutions. We are also the first point of contact when you visit or call our office. And pride ourselves on providing warm, professional, and quality service every time you walk through the doors or one of your calls lights up our phone. We possess a broad knowledge and can assist with answering your questions or linking you with an expert. For all those times when you need a quick money transfer or confirmation of a recent trade, client services can help sort out those questions in one fell swoop.

Our client service all-stars go above and beyond for every client. Just imagine you’re heading into retirement after a fulfilling career with half a dozen happy employers, but now you have to figure out how to roll over all those 401(k)s! Instead of wading through that mire of paperwork on your own, we can prep the forms, gather your signatures, print the postage, and get those 401(k)s rolling so that you can hit the golf course.

Since none of us are springing out of telephone booths in red capes, how does client services pull it off? We manage all these super human feats by building relationships with our advisors and clients. We collaborated with our advisors daily to tackle the latest objectives for managing our clients’ assets. These strong bonds translate to our clients and their families. We value long-term relationships and prioritize our clients to take care in addressing every task. Whether celebrating a new (grand)child or coping with the passing of a loved one, we are here to support you throughout all phases of life.

And to get a picture with the voices and names, this us. Our individual bios can be found here.

Employee Spotlight | Rodney Gonzales

Employee Spotlight | Rodney Gonzales

Cheryl: What is your “Merriman Story”? 

Rodney: My first exposure to Merriman was back in 2005, when the firm was located on Lake Union in the AGC building. I worked for a company called Black Tusk, and we serviced the computers and software that Merriman used. When that company dissolved, I heard about an opening at Merriman, and I’ve been here ever since. That was 8 years ago.

I enjoy working with Merriman as the people are open and fun to work with, and it’s not a daily grind to come into work each day. Plus, we have a pancake breakfast once a month!

 

Cheryl: Do you have any other roles at Merriman besides being our IT expert?

Rodney: I work closely with Compliance, making sure we are following all the rules and guidelines for our industry. In addition, I am one of three Floor Wardens for our office, which means I am making sure everyone is off the floor in case of an emergency.

Lastly, I am on the Disaster Recovery Team, which is probably the most important. This team is charged with assuring business continuity during a work stoppage event, like an earthquake, fire or snowmageddon. In addition to making sure our employees are safe during an event, we are also responsible for making sure our company continues to be here for our clients and conduct our daily business. Our Disaster Recovery Team makes sure that we’ve accounted for every reasonable scenario that could affect our ability to do business, and we’ve developed plans for keeping our employees safe, productive and to be available for our clients.

 

Cheryl: Tell us about your family.

Rodney: I have three very busy and active kids. My oldest is Griffen. He is 18 and heading off to college in the fall. It will be a big adjustment for all of us in just a couple of months. As of this interview, he hasn’t made a final decision on his school, but it looks like he will be headed somewhere with a few more days of sunshine per year than Seattle.

My second born is Spencer, who is 16, and will head into his Junior year of High School. He is very involved in theater, which keeps him busy.

My youngest is my daughter, Finley.  She is 12 and will be headed into 6th grade in the fall. She is a very avid basketball player and has won several awards for her writing.

 

Cheryl: How do you like to spend a typical weekend?

Rodney: When I’m not busy driving the kids around and attending their functions, I enjoy being active in my time away from work. Hiking in the North Cascades is a highlight. I also enjoy spending time with buddies from high school as well as friends from my Microsoft days. Working in my yard and doing some gardening round out the list.

 

Cheryl: Do you have any pets?

Rodney: Yes, along with 3 kids, we have a bit of a zoo at our house.  We have ten fish and three dachshunds, Ripley, Hadley and Bowie. They are spoiled rotten and spend most of their time sleeping.

 

Cheryl: What’s a “fun” fact about you?

Rodney: I am a prankster.  (Cheryl: I can attest to this myself! I returned from a two-week vacation a few years ago and my office was filled with packages, boxes, and boxes of stuff. It took me a while to dig out and find the legitimate packages that were for Christmas presents.)

 

Cheryl: What else do you like to do for fun?

Rodney: I love live sports as well as concerts, and I have tickets to see Elton John this summer. I also like to attend movie premiers on opening night, especially Sci-Fi films.

Employee Spotlight | Eric Jonson

Employee Spotlight | Eric Jonson

Brad: What are some of your personality traits that make you a great advisor?

Eric: I think about all aspects of a decision. Decisions that can seem obvious in a vacuum but become less clear after gaining additional perspective, and playing those decisions out over long time horizons. I also enjoy researching and learning things on my own. I believe that perspective is imperative when advising on long-term financial decisions. 

When I think of and analyze decisions, I always think of them in the context of a pachinko machine. The ball is launched to the top of the machine, where it then begins to fall. Bouncing off seemingly randomly to end up at its destination at the bottom. During that fall, the ball will go to each section and bounce off the pegs. The difference between it bouncing left and bouncing right can be a fraction of a millimeter, but that minuscule difference can lead to a very different outcome (whether the ball goes right or left). And, the ball bounces left and right several times before making it to the bottom. As it reaches the bottom, the outcomes are still random, but the further it comes to the end, the slimmer the range of outcomes. When it’s at the very top, that first bounce can make a huge difference in where it ends up.

 

Brad: What is something not many people know about you?

Eric: I ran the 1990 Goodwill games marathon in Seattle. The Goodwill games were created by tv and media mogul, Ted Turner, as an alternative to the Olympics. In February of that year I could not run one mile, so I decided to challenge myself to run a marathon. Slowly, I got in better and better shape, and was able to complete a 10k in April, which was a great stepping stone for the upcoming marathon in July which I was able to finish. When I finished, I promised myself I would do a marathon every 30 years to help keep me accountable, and my next one is coming up in a year and a half.

In addition to the marathon, I have always loved electric motors since I was a little kid. In my teens, I was always building them. I started out making small car motors to compete in middle school races, and the fascination continued. Today that interest continues at my family’s cabin along the scenic Highway 20, where I have created a small hydroelectric station on our creek to provide power to one of our buildings. I also enjoy reading up about the newest tech on electric cars and have now converted all my outdoor landscaping tools from gas to Green Works electric tools. I kind of went crazy with that transition, but I am very glad I made the switch.

 

Brad: If your son and daughter only took one lesson from you, what would that be?

Eric: Do away with expectations, regarding how their lives will play out and their relationships with others.

When you start thinking the world will be a certain way, it’s just a matter of time before you realize it isn’t going to go the way you think it will. When that happens, you’ll feel let down, even though the way life plays out could end up being perfect. As time passes, you can have a more complete perspective on seeing how that pachinko ball ended up in the right place, even though it may have taken an unexpected path to get there.

Instead, let life be an adventure. That way you don’t have to experience the same pressures and disappointments that come with having expectations. In short, plan with a pencil, not a pen.

Oh, and save 10% of your income, and wear sunscreen.