Morgan Stanley has joined the National Football League Players Association's financial planning network, the two sides announced on Friday.
Morgan Stanley's head of Global Sports and Entertainment division, Sandra Richards, will lead the firm's advisors entering the program, which is designed to offer NFL players assistance with expanding their finances and investments beyond their playing days.
Morgan Stanley will use its long-standing partnership with the NFLPA to continue to build awareness for its wealth management division via the union's Financial Advisors Registration Program.
The pact is an affiliation-like agreement with no upfront fees attached and grants Morgan Stanley more access to the NFLPA's network of players and events.
Richards said she wants to get players to "operate differently" when it comes to their finances, using the Covid-19 pandemic as "a living example of what can happen in terms of the unexpected besides a trade or God forbid an injury," she said.
"This moment is a teaching lesson," Richards said. "This moment should be the wake-up call.
The NFLPA's program had its wake-up call in 2016 when it was revealed an advisor was the culprit behind a $43 million loss after bad investments were made on electron bingo machines.
Dana Shuler, NFLPA senior director of player affairs and development, said the union went through a "constant state of making enhancements to the program" after the loss.
Changes included requiring advisors to hold a CFP or CFA and more insurance requirements to include fidelity bonding (insurance protection against advisors who commit fraud).
"That's a huge difference," Shuler said, adding the additions ensure advisors are committed to "holistic financial planning and not just coming in to sell products. We wanted comprehensive financial planning for the players."
Though individual advisors can still sign up for the NFLPA's program for a $2,500 affiliation fee, in October, the program was again adjusted to add larger "institutionalized" financial firms that don't need to pay a fee.
Shuler said the NFLPA is only offering eight slots to more prominent firms, four of which have already been occupied with Goldman Sachs, Alliancebernstein, Bessemer Trust, and now Morgan Stanley. Shuler said the NFLPA doesn't expect to fill the remaining four slots for "some time."
Asked if the players are more trusting or the NFLPA's program after what occurred in 2016, Shuler said early feedback is "they like it."
"The institutions that are participating, they're highly reputable, and a number of them have made their mark in working with professional athletes, so I think that's another thing that bodes well for the players," she added.
Some players have already opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns about Covid-19. Preserving funds will be important over the new year for those sitting out. In addition, Richards notes more athletes are "being more creative about building out additional revenue sources" using a recent equity deal, like Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes' new equity agreement, as an example.
Richards said the Global Sports and Entertainment division, which has has more than $100 billion under management, will add about 50 advisors to the NFLPA's program.
With players involved in more endorsement and equity deals as name, image, and likeness continues to increase revenue for athletes, Richards said having a trusted advisor is an "important seat to have at that table if you're going to maximize your brand and your visibility.
"We're in a different time and a different age," she said. "There is so much opportunity out here that you can no longer be satisfied with what you have."
Updated to clarify Richard's division has more than $100 billion under management.