Merriman Wealth Management, LLC, an independent wealth management firm with over $3.5 billion in assets under management, is pleased to announce the promotion of two new principals – Wealth Advisors Aimee Butler, CFP®, and Chris Waclawik, AFC®, CFP®.
“Aimee and Chris’s contribution and dedication to Merriman and our clients has been invaluable as we seek to be the destination for clients and employees who are looking to Live Fully,” said CEO Jeremy Burger, CFA®, CFP®. “Aimee and Chris continue to demonstrate a strong commitment to improving the lives of our clients, lifting up their fellow teammates and giving back to their communities.”
Merriman is proud to offer a path to partnership for intellectually curious, motivated individuals who combine technical expertise and empathy. With the addition of Aimee and Chris, Merriman now has 15 principals.
Aimee joined Merriman in February 2018 in its newly acquired Eugene, OR, office after holding senior leadership roles at Waddell & Reed and Ameriprise. Her leadership experience was indispensable as she helped integrate the newly merged teams and worked with clients to fulfill Merriman’s long-term vision of empowering people to Live Fully. Along with assisting many clients on Merriman’s behalf, Aimee serves on two leadership committees: the first designed to continually enhance the Merriman client experience and the second to attract and retain talented individuals to Merriman.
Chris joined Merriman in May 2014 as an Associate Advisor. Within two years, he was asked to lead and enhance the associate program into a development program for future advisors. While managing this growing team, he continued to be an advocate for clients and has helped the firm grow through new channels. In addition to his direct client work, Chris now focuses his leadership expertise on the Wealth Management Services and Client Experience Operations committees at Merriman. Always ready to contribute, Chris’s tax experience and attention to detail deliver great intellectual value, which consistently benefits our clients and team.
Disclosure: All opinions expressed in this article are for general informational purposes and constitute the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of the report. These opinions are subject to change without notice and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific security. The material has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, however Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source. Merriman does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be taken as such.
At Merriman we love giving back to our communities, whether that be in charitable donation matching dollars or using our individual allotment of volunteer hours. And in some instances, it also allows a group of us to enjoy a volunteer experience together.
In a recent review meeting, Wealth Advisor Mike Ersser, learned that a client of ours volunteers with the Washington Trail Association (WTA). Discussing their mutual enjoyment of spending time outdoors here in the Pacific Northwest prompted an idea – why don’t I organize a Merriman group to volunteer!
A large part of our team enjoys spending time in our gorgeous parks and trails in the area and what sometimes gets forgotten is the need for trail maintenance and support. So, a workgroup was created, and they hit the trails last week at Sharpe Park in Anacortes, Washington.
They had a fun and active day starting a rock turnpike, performing duff and trail clearing, and making some new friends and memories in their work party.
If you’re interested in getting involved with the Washington Trail Association, more information can be found here.
“The addition of Geoff and Paige to Merriman’s investment committee will provide valuable insight and experience to help us continue to seek the best investment outcomes for our clients,” said Jeremy Burger, CFA, CFP®, CEO of Merriman. Merriman has a six-member investment committee that oversees the firm’s two core investment strategies and hedge fund.
Geoffrey joined Merriman as a Wealth Advisor in January 2016 after spending three years at TD Ameritrade. Geoff graduated from the University of Tulsa and has earned three distinguished credentials in the industry – CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional (CFP®), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and Chartered Financial Analyst® designation (CFA®). Geoff is an active member of the South Puget Sound community including serving on the investment committees for the Tacoma Employees’ Retirement System pension and the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation.
Paige joined Merriman as a Wealth Advisor in December 2019 after spending 3 years at other advisory firms and prior to that working in the tech industry. Paige graduated from the University of Notre Dame and has earned three distinguished credentials in the industry – CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional (CFP®), Chartered Financial Analyst® designation (CFA®), and Chartered SRI Counselor (CSRIC™). Paige has expertise in providing guidance around sustainable, responsible, and impact investing options.
This season, we watch in awe as leaves on the trees burst with color and then begin to fall away. It is a perfect time to reflect on all we have to be grateful for and to look ahead enthusiastically toward the future. At Merriman, we feel an immense gratitude for your trust and engagement with us, especially during these last two years. We’ve learned so much from navigating these challenging times with you, and we are honored that you have stayed the course and continue to trust us with such an important aspect of your life. Your trust propels us forward and inspires us to be better each day.
In March of last year, I sent an email to our clients explaining how we would approach this new virus, COVID-19. While we didn’t then know the severity or length of time COVID-19 would affect us, we believed that by continuing our relentless focus on investment and financial planning expertise and seeking to understand the shifting needs of our clients, we would see our fellow teammates and clients through this successfully.
I expressed at the time, “While not perfect, we’ve been able to execute all our core functions—most importantly, listening empathetically to our clients and providing guidance based on our decades of experience. While we can’t predict how this will play out or when things might return to normal, we’re committed to seeing you through to the other side.”
I am pleased to say that with your patience and understanding, I feel we accomplished this mission. We listened as many of you shared your fears about health and family, the global economy, the time missed with grandkids or friends, or newfound uncertainty about retirement or job security. In each conversation, we strove to discuss what our most impactful support could look like. We used our expertise to rebalance portfolios during critical moments, took advantage of tax-loss harvesting and Roth conversion opportunities, and made some of the biggest enhancements to our portfolios in Merriman’s history. We are grateful for the trust you put in us, and we hope to serve you and your family for decades to come.
As a company, we have leaned into our core values to emerge stronger than ever. This year, we’ve added seven new positions (more than 15% of our workforce), and we are looking to add multiple additional teammates over the next six months to help us serve the many new families joining Merriman. Most of these new families have come directly from introductions you’ve made, so thank you. It thrills us that you would refer a friend, co-worker, or family member to Merriman. We consider an introduction to someone you care about to be the highest compliment, and we are energized to offer our services to benefit their futures.
As with so many things these last two years, we’ve learned to flex to meet new demands. We’ve had to reimagine how our employees work, balancing in-person contributions to our office community and working remotely to prioritize health and safety. We have gathered feedback from our employees throughout this period, and the overwhelming message we received from our team was that they wanted to maintain the flexibility to both work from home and have a designated office that supported employee development, collaboration, and community. Regardless of team member location, maintaining an excellent client experience has been paramount in this decision-making process.
After much input and reflection, we’re incredibly excited to tell you that as of January 1, 2022, we will have new office locations in Seattle and Bellevue, in addition to our offices in Eugene and Spokane. Your needs, along with the desires of our employees and our growth, were key factors in the vision of our new offices. Both spaces will provide beautiful client meeting spaces when we desire gathering in person. We are also committed to continue enhancing our virtual meeting experience for those of you who enjoy connecting with us from the convenience of your own home. We look forward to sharing more details soon.
Thank you for your continued trust and belief in the Merriman team. We wish you a wonderful and meaningful holiday season and look forward to connecting soon.
Investors like you are, by definition, actively planning for your financial future. At Merriman, we understand that you also want to make sure the world is bright for future generations.
To help align your investments with your values, we offer our Values-Based Investing portfolios. These portfolios are built in a manner consistent with our overall investment philosophy and designed to deliver similar after-fee, after-tax returns while offering you the ability to have an impact through your investment choices. One of these values-based options is our Sustainability portfolio. The UCLA Sustainability Committee defines sustainability as “the physical development and institutional operating practices that meet the needs of present users without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, particularly with regard to use and waste of natural resources.”
Our Sustainability portfolio focuses on including and overweighting companies that score high on sustainability measures. By choosing this portfolio, clients have the ability to shift money away from companies that have negative environmental impacts and into companies that rank better than their peers.
For the equity allocation in our Sustainability portfolio, we have selected funds managed by Dimensional Fund Advisors. When it comes to determining environmental impact, Dimensional’s approach to sustainability investing stands out. While many asset managers offer binary screening to exclude certain securities, Dimensional tilts toward companies that rank high on its sustainability framework while reducing the weight of companies with negative scores. This approach ensures a company doing better than its peers is rewarded even if it lags behind other companies in different sectors. This process is important because while a software company won’t have a very large environmental impact, investing in an energy company that has better environmental business practices than its peers can end up being more impactful on reducing carbon emissions in the future.
Incorporating sustainability considerations is a complex task. The sustainability funds we have selected use a Sustainability Scoring Framework on an industry level. The table on the right shows how the sustainability scores are determined, taking into account both the greenhouse gas emissions the company reports as well as potential future emissions from their fossil fuel reserves. This process penalizes companies that enable others to emit more or will themselves emit more in the future.
Dimensional also screens out companies with particularly negative practices around factory farming, cluster munitions, tobacco, and child labor.
Equities aren’t the only asset class where our portfolio includes sustainability considerations. Real estate has a high environmental impact and is an asset class where we are able to successfully incorporate sustainability considerations with minimal impact on investment returns.
Per the UN Enviroment Programme (UNEP), “The construction and operations of buildings account for 40% of global energy use, 30% of energy-related GHG emissions, approximately 12% of water use, nearly 40% of waste, and employs 10% of the workforce.”
As shown in the graph below using data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, buildings have the lowest cost to reduce emissions. A great example of this comes from the iconic New York Empire State Building, which in 2010 underwent a retrofit. Windows were rebuilt, HVAC was replaced, and reflective insulation was installed. These changes resulted in the building having an annual energy reduction of 38% which translates to a cost saving of $4.4 million per year. This type of cost saving is also beneficial to the investment as profits from these endeavors are passed through to the investors.
Source: VERT Asset Management
We are partnering with some of the most informed individuals in the field of sustainable real estate investing by using the groundbreaking Global Sustainable Real Estate Fund from VERT Asset Management. This fund targets companies that meet a threefold criteria of environment, social, and governance factors. These include both positive and negative screening and tilts. The fund overweights REITs with energy, GHG, and water reductions and also screens out prisons, businesses, or companies with environmental fines. The Venn diagram below shows how VERT incorporates a multi-dimensional scoring methodology. VERT focuses on companies that exhibit “Comprehensive Excellence,” those that fall in the middle of the Venn diagram. After this, VERT targets “Focused Excellence” REITs which fall into two of the Venn diagram categories. In this way, VERT builds a portfolio targeting the best of the best first.
Source: VERT Asset Management
There is more than one way to invest in line with your values. Whether by using sustainable funds like those from Dimensional and VERT, or one of our other investment offerings, Merriman is by your side. We want to make sure your investments not only fulfill your financial goals but also allow you to live fully, knowing that you are making a difference for future generations.
During my senior year in high school, I was invited to go backpacking in Yosemite with the Yosemite Institute. I had been backpacking many times before with my father all over California. We even climbed the tallest mountain in the continental United States (Mount Whitney) when I was 14. I loved the adventure and challenge of backpacking. In those early years, I didn’t realize the importance of being in nature. It wasn’t until the Yosemite trip that our guides taught us about the history of the national parks in the delicate balance between the visitors and the surroundings. They also taught us the importance of taking care of our planet. When my classmates and I stopped in a McDonald’s on the way home from Yosemite, I remember taking the Big Mac out of the Styrofoam container and asking them to reuse it. Back in the 80s, I don’t think climate change was on many people’s radars. Today, the science of climate change makes me want to do everything possible to care for the planet for the generations to come. I’ve always done my part but drew the line when it came to investing sustainably. My thought has always been to maximize returns in my investment portfolio and give charitably to causes that fight climate change.
I just didn’t believe that I’d be able to diversify enough (too risky). I believed that returns would be lower in part due to higher expenses. I also got confused about the differences between being socially responsible and sustainable investing. There are also a lot of acronyms and terminology to understand, such as SRI (Socially Responsible Investing) and ESG (environmental, social, and governance).
The history of Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) goes back as early as Moses in 1500 BC. In more modern times, the 1950s saw the first mutual fund, the Boston-based Pioneer Fund, to avoid “sin” stocks: companies that dealt in alcohol, tobacco, or gambling.
While I don’t love to support alcohol, tobacco, and gambling, my values aim to focus on investments that help the planet. My values seek to focus on the “E” in ESG: the environment. Doing well while doing good.
Sustainability investing is a choice and investors decide whether aligning their investment decisions with their environmental values is right for them. At Merriman, we believe that, all else being equal, a sustainability investing strategy should generally reward companies for acting in more environmentally responsible ways than their industry counterparts. This belief is in contrast to many other sustainability investing approaches that exclude entire industries regarded as the worst offenders. Sustainability strategies place greater emphasis on companies considered to be acting in more environmentally responsible ways while also emphasizing higher expected return securities. This approach enables investors to pursue their environmental goals within a highly diversified and efficient investment strategy.
It feels like we have both been on the same journey to the top of the mountain to build a portfolio that focuses on the environment without sacrificing risk-adjusted returns. Merriman recently announced major changes to our values-based portfolio, and I have moved all of my investments into our new portfolio. When I combine a sustainable portfolio with charitable giving, it is one small way to do my part in “leaving no trace behind.” If you would like to learn even more about our approach, you can read “Incorporating Environment and Social Values into Your Merriman Portfolio”.