The Peaceful Planner –
A hero who helps clients see the humanity in the numbers
ome people may have heard the quote, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail,” and thought it was a clever turn of phrase; our hero, Kendra Erkamaa, CEO of Triangle Financial Services, has made it a life principle. When thinking back to her early days, Kendra remembers, “Inherently, I was a planner from the beginning, since I was 16 years old and using my first Franklin Covey day planner.” This passion for planning would lead her on her journey of serving others, helping them find peace in life’s storms, and building wealth to make a difference.
Kendra’s parents first instilled in her the drive to serve others. Her mother, a nurse, and her father, a helicopter mechanic, taught her the importance of helping others. She followed this call to service, which ultimately led her to become a financial advisor. With a foundation in science and math studying chemical engineering in college, she discovered she had a mind for analytics and using metrics to break down complex problems. It would be this analytical mindset that pushed her toward taking some financial planning courses. Once she had her foot in the door, she went on to earn a degree in Business Administration and started her career in event catering management. Kendra says: “What I really loved about management was the numbers – analyzing the reports, and figuring out what actions we could take to manage those numbers and outputs.”
After graduating from college, Kendra went to work immediately on her management career, but it was short-lived. Only two years in, her position was eliminated. Kendra used this time to reflect and ask herself the critical question, “What kind of career do I see myself in for a lifetime?” Her passion for planning came in handy as she compiled a list of jobs that met her criteria: she needed something that could feed her analytical side while allowing her to help and serve others. She ultimately landed on becoming a financial advisor. Kendra performed what she calls “occupational interviews,” where she would cold-call financial advisory firms daily and inquire about what they did. She looked to see what types of firms met her passions and would give her the greatest opportunities to succeed.
After a number of these conversations, she eventually connected with the founder of Triangle Financial Services, Ton Stam. As Kendra remembers it, “He told me that ‘It’s not just about making money while playing golf, but that it’s really about seeing clients reach their goals. Truly seeing them, through a lifetime of changes, and get them to realize all of those dreams and hopes.’ That is what ultimately drew me to Triangle and the financial advisory profession, and how I have been able to make a positive impact on people’s lives.”
Kendra went on to join Triangle in 2004, building a solid book of business and learning the ins and outs of the industry. As she grew into the role, the opportunity presented itself to buy the company from Ton three years later. He was looking to move on and start another business as a chocolatier. At 27 years old, Kendra was now in charge of the firm – with the Great Recession right around the corner. It was a tumultuous time, but Kendra, who has a reputation for being calm, shifted her focus to her clients. Kendra was able to navigate the crisis by keeping her clients at the heart of everything she did while using statistics as her guide. She recalls overcoming this historical challenge by “showing up, staying optimistic, and letting the data from the past guide us to know that we will get through this.”
Kendra believes, “It is really an absolute joy to be trusted. To be able to walk through their lives together, through the ups and downs, through the joys as much as the difficult times.” From making calls to talk one-on-one with her clients, to sending out survival bags containing little things to help with stress, such as stress balls and lollipops, she found a way to help her clients weather the storm. She searched for the humanity in the numbers and presented it to them – this has truly been a hallmark of her career.
Kendra’s ability to use the numbers to help ease personal issues has allowed her to impact lives in her work and community outreach. She is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, a group of various professionals ranging from lawyers to therapists and financial professionals – who take a multi-dimensional approach to one of life’s toughest challenges: divorce. She has many success stories, but one of her favorites came from a collaborative mediation. A couple came to Kendra for help – the pair were going through a separation and had varying views on how to divide their assets. By taking an analytical approach in reviewing their financial information, Kendra was able to transition the pair from an emotional conversation to a pragmatic one. The two started to see the other’s side in the meeting, and as the talks progressed, they started asking to run numbers to make sure the other had enough to live off of and comfortably retire. It’s in these moments Kendra discovered that everybody’s interests can be honored as they look for peace.
As a planner, Kendra gravitates toward outreach to help people manage their financial habits, enriching them for the future. She and her firm volunteer at Beacon of Life, a transitional home that helps women coming out of incarceration or struggling with poverty. She and her team serve as the residents’ budget counselors, helping them get the financial footing to achieve a brighter future. Additionally, she is a board member of the Jumpstart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, an organization looking to bring financial literacy to schools. She also serves as a troop leader for the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa. With so much going on, Kendra’s planning-centric mindset has enabled her to succeed while improving the lives of those around her.
Securities and Advisory Services offered through Harbour Investments, Inc. Member SPIC