Though Meridian officially began in 2015, founding partners Sarah Yakel and Nathan Gilbert both come to the firm with distinguished careers helping individuals and organizations attain their goals — earning the unwavering trust of many long-term clients along the way.
Sarah J. Yakel, Partner
Sarah brings to Meridian more than 15 years of experience in investment and trusts, coupled with an ability to clearly communicate a client’s unique path to financial peace of mind. Respected by her peers for smart investment strategies, retirement planning skills, and estate and trust expertise, Sarah brings clarity to those who come to her for help.
After graduating from Campbell University in 1999 with a degree in Trust Management and Financial Planning, Sarah joined the Trust department of Peoples National Bank, which ultimately became BB&T Wealth Management. While at BB&T, Sarah realized she wanted to help people plan for all their financial needs, not just trust assets. So she passed the rigorous Certified Financial Planner® exam. Seeking greater opportunities to work directly with clients, she left BB&T in 2004 and joined TFB Wealth Management.
At TFB, Sarah poured her energy into developing their financial planning program, helping hundreds of individuals, families, and small-business owners plan for and achieve their life goals.
When she’s not reading the Journal of Financial Planning, BusinessWeek, or some other fun magazine, Sarah enjoys spending time with her husband, three children, and giant puppy in their Fauquier community. She is a founding member of Leadership Fauquier, a leadership development organization, and enjoys volunteering with local nonprofits.
As for her own life goals, Sarah occasionally gets to indulge her love of cooking and travel by making something other than hot dogs or chicken nuggets, or by driving further than two hours from Warrenton. Sarah’s own financial planning goals are to build a life that allows her to both cook and travel more often.
Nathan S. Gilbert, Partner
Over the course of more than 16 years, Nathan has provided financial advice and wealth management services to hundreds of individuals, families, and organizations. A native of Greenwich, Virginia, Nathan attended nearby James Madison University, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. During college he worked in several capacities for The Fauquier Bank. An internship in the bank’s Investments and Trust department taught him much about the business of investment management — but also important lessons about listening to and dealing with clients’ complex situations.
After college, Nathan attained FINRA Series 7 and 66 investment licenses and continued to work for TFB’s Wealth Management area as a licensed assistant. He supported other advisors in areas ranging from stock and bond trading to presentations on retirement and estate planning. In time, Nathan became a full-time financial advisor and a Vice President for TFB Wealth Management Services.
Throughout his career, both as a licensed assistant and as an advisor, Nathan focused on trust planning and investment management, taking a series of courses at Cannon Financial Institute that helped him gain the Certified Trust Financial Advisor (CTFA) designation.
Nathan is proud that he and Sarah have employed the best practices of financial planning and investment management in creating Meridian Financial Partners. He brings to the firm a passion for helping clients gain knowledge through clear communication and wholly unbiased advice.
Outside the office, Nathan serves as a board member for Leadership Fauquier, Highland School, and Fauquier Family Shelter. He enjoys spending time with his three children and wife Melissa at their home in Haymarket. Nathan is also very active in the Evergreen community, and cherishes his time on the local golf course (or pretty much any golf course).
Sarah G. Irving, Lead Financial Advisor
Sarah Irving holds almost a decade of experience working within financial services. Over the last several years with Meridian, has provided holistic financial planning for families and growing professionals as well as providing financial planning, investment management, and client support for Sarah Yakel and Nathan Gilbert.
Sarah received her Bachelor of Fine Arts (surprisingly enough in Acting!) with a minor in Business Administration from Elon University in North Carolina. Sarah always had a passion for theatre and the arts; however, as she continued her education, she began to discover an intuitive understanding for finance and business, even taking Calculus classes for extra credits. After graduating college, Sarah felt a calling to pursue a career combining finance with her ability to develop and nurture client relationships.
Following this desire, she began her career at Prospect 33, a global management consultancy firm where she managed accounts and client relationships with several large international investment banks.
In 2017, Sarah joined Meridian and immediately knew that the company’s mission - providing clarity and peace of mind through holistic financial planning and wealth management - was a perfect fit with her beliefs and professional goals. Sarah’s passion for developing trusting relationships with Meridian’s clients fueled her desire to grow her knowledge in order to provide the highest quality of service and competence. In November 2020 Sarah Irving passed the Certified Financial Planner™ exam and met the rigorous training, requirements, and ethical standards to become a CFP®.
Sarah is impassioned about working with professionals and growing families in coordinating efforts to maximize their financial objectives, goals, and assets no matter what life throws their way.
Sarah is a 2019 graduate of the Leadership Fauquier program, and looks forward to continuing her mission of contributing back to her community and to those in need, currently serving with the Boys & Girls Club. When Sarah and her husband aren’t tackling some sort of DIY project together, she enjoys rolling up her sleeves and spending time on their land with her two small children, two dogs, two cats, chickens, and ducks.
Lucy D. Valandra, Associate Financial Advisor
Lucy Drinkwater Valandra has been with Meridian Financial Partners since 2018. Lucy's hard work and successes have led her to Meridian, which not only challenges her professionally but also provides plenty of exciting opportunities for growth. A proud Sweet Briar College Alumna, Lucy sealed her first position prior to graduating with the Great Meadow Foundation. From office management to event planning, every task was met with a smile.
After 3 years working in the non-profit sector, she left to pursue her interest in the world of finance. Her commitment to providing the highest level of support to every Meridian client shines through. Lucy's passion is serving clients who are young professionals and families who typically don't have access to fee-only and fiduciary financial services. She is a CFP® Candidate through George Mason University and a 2020 graduate of Leadership Fauquier.
Born in Michigan, but a long time resident of Virginia, Lucy moved to the Commonwealth as a teenager for her equestrian dreams. Lucy is happily married to her husband Tom and has two large fluffy dogs Bea & Pasa and a cat. Away from Meridian, she competes in dressage, enjoys riding her Peloton, and spending time with family.
Tyler Fetherolf, Investment Analyst
Tyler Fetherolf, a graduate of Averett University in Danville, Virginia. Tyler graduated Cum Laude from Averett in three and a half years with a double major in Accounting and Marketing Management. Throughout his time at Averett, Tyler learned to love the business field and the many opportunities it could give him. During the summer of 2018 he served as an intern here at Meridian Financial Partners where he learned many new aspects of a business while gaining real world experience. Tyler obtained his Masters of Business from Averett University in 2020 and plans to take the CFA Exam in the upcoming years.
While at Averett Tyler was also part of the baseball team and plans to further his love for the game as a coach in the future. Outside of the office, and away from his school work, Tyler can most often be found on the water enjoying his love for fishing with his Great Dane, Wilson. One of Tyler’s goals for the future is to be able to travel the world to fish in famous locations.
Kira Topeka, Director of Client Experience
Kira Topeka, a graduate of Boston University joined Meridian in 2020. While at BU, Kira was also part of the equestrian program. She brings valuable experience to Meridian & our clients from her 3 years at the Great Meadow Foundation. Kira is dedicated to all aspects of the client relationship which leads to each client feeling welcomed and engaged with Meridian in every step of their financial journey. Outside of the office, she enjoys photography, hiking, and spending time with her pets.
Heather Riggs, Clients Services Associate
Heather Riggs joined Meridian in 2021 and brings over 20 year of experience in meeting the needs of clients to the team. She was born and raised in Manassas, has lived her entire life in the vicinity and, as a result, knows the area as only a local could. When not helping clients, Heather enjoys photography, spending time with her husband and teenage son, watching and attending soccer games, and gardening. She has quite the green thumb!
Why We Do It
We’re honored to be a part of your financial journey — to provide guidance along the path, lend support during difficult times and celebrate your successes. We’re gratified by the long-term, mutually trusting relationships we’ve established. We strive each day to be fully engaged with our clients, delivering exceptional advice, strategies, and service.
What We Value
At Meridian, we strive to:
- Earn long-term trusting relationships
- Communicate openly, clearly and respectfully
- Create fearless, engaging and productive client experiences
- Be authentic, grateful and generous
- Stay curious and seek knowledge
- Serve our communities in a caring manner