NFL wants advisers to have CFP or CFA designation to work with players

Players union is giving financial advisers two years to meet new guidelines to qualify for approved list

Jun 18, 2018 @ 5:00 pm

By Jeff Benjamin

Financial advisers who want a piece of the lucrative market advising professional football players will have two years to meet a new requirement that they hold a CFP or CFA designation, according to the National Football League Players Association.

As part of a regular upgrade to the requirements for being part of the approved list of financial advisers, they will have to have earned the certified financial planner designation from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards or a chartered financial analyst mark from the CFA Institute by 2020.

"I think it's definitely a positive move, and I think they're trying to do everything they can to protect the players," said Jordan Waxman, managing partner at HSW Advisors.

Mr. Waxman, who has a CFP and heads up a niche practice working with athletes and celebrities inside the $2.5 billion advisory firm, praised the players' union for trying to protect players from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous or unqualified advisers.

"It's not hard to get approved as an NFLPA agent or adviser," he said. "There are basic background checks, but you don't necessarily have to be somebody with investment skills. But now you will have to be."

The changes, which were approved late last year, are potential stumbling blocks for some advisers.

Peter Lee, founding partner at Summit Trail Advisors, is one of two advisers at the $6.5 billion firm working primarily with athletes, and neither of the advisers currently meet the certification requirements.

"It's important to know that the advisers are being vetted and approved," Mr. Lee said. "And it's important for us to be involved and supportive of what the NFLPA is doing."

Mr. Lee, who played quarterback at Yale University in the late 1990s, works closely with fellow adviser James Cantelupe, who played football at West Point and then for the Chicago Bears during the 1999 and 2000 seasons.

Mr. Lee said athletes and entertainers make up about 15% of the firm's advisory business, and that most of their business with athletes comes through referrals and not through their standing on the adviser list. (NFL players are free to hire anyone they want, whether they are on the list or not.)

However, he added, there are plans in place to have a Summit Trail adviser with the proper credentials on the approved list before the 2020 deadline.

The NFL is the only major sports league in which there a list of advisers approved to work with players.

Mr. Waxman believes all sports could benefit from establishing an approved list of financial professionals, but said it is most important in the NFL where the average career lasts about three years.

"These people have a bullseye on their back as soon as they sign their first contract," he said. "As an adviser, you have to help them to protect their image, their lifestyle, and their assets. Plus, they earn all their wealth through ordinary income, so tax management is important."

The players' union did not respond to requests for comment for this story, but according to its website, applications for advisers looking to work with NFL players under the new guidelines can be submitted starting this month.

In addition to the new professional designations, the basic requirements include a bachelor's degree and at least eight years of licensed experience. Qualifying licenses include an attorney's license, an insurance license, a certfied public accountant's license and series licenses issued by the Finanial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. In addition, the adviser must have fidelity bonding and liability insurance; no history of civil, criminal or fraud activity; no pending customer complaints and must use a qualified custodian to hold client assets.

The application fee is $2,000, and there is also a $500 annual membership fee.

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