On Thursday, a longtime colleague referred to the rising power of financial advisors in relation to agents, at least in the football business. He asked me if I’d seen anything written anywhere about the subject. I dismissed the idea pretty quickly. Then it got me thinking.

Is it fair to say that people on the financial/investing side have it better than those on the contract side? There are a lot of ways to look at it. First, the advantages of being on the money side.

  • Financial advisors don’t have to worry about training costs. The thing about training is that it runs about $10,000 minimum (if you’re talking about a player who’s in the discussion to be drafted), and once you write that check, it’s pretty much gone. I mean, sure, if your client fires you and you have a training agreement, you can sue.  But a judgement is different from a payment, and players don’t usually have that kind of money lying around.
  • What’s more, a financial advisor who signs a player that makes it to a second deal has a lifetime relationship with his client if he plays his cards right. For an agent, it’s all over when there aren’t any more contracts to bill.
  • Agents are the whipping boy of the business. When things go wrong, it’s almost always the agent’s fault, even though (usually) he did nothing wrong.
  • Financial advisors aren’t in the crosshairs. When you’re an agent, pretty much every school is gunning for you. You’re presumed guilty. For whatever reason, financial people are seen as above the fray, well-intentioned, honest, educated.
  • Financial advisors don’t make big headlines (unless they really mess up, of course) and don’t often get major notoriety. That means they aren’t being constantly barraged by desperate draft prospects and street free agents.
  • If you’re on the financial side, recruiting the player often means recruiting the parents. For the most part, this is a good thing. Parents take a longer view and value a wealth manager’s expertise much more than the typical player values the advice, counsel and expertise of an agent. In many (most?) cases, the player couldn’t care less what his parents think during the agent selection process.

On the other side, there are advantages to being an agent.

  • This is the biggest reason, and probably why being an agent still trumps being a wealth manager. It’s The Life. I know dozens of agents who barely recruit anymore, barely sign anyone, and rarely train the ones they sign, but they don’t care. For three years, they get to say they’re agents. To a lot of fans, there’s nothing cooler than saying you have the cell number of a few NFL scouts. For the uneducated, the idea of going to the combine and attending the NFLPA seminar is super sexy. In reality, it’s snores-ville. The cache that comes with being an agent . . .  its kind of like being James Bond and Elvis, all rolled into one. You just don’t get that kind of jolt being around financial advisors.
  • I talk to attorneys who are agents all the time, and they are deathly afraid they’ll make one false (though well-intentioned) move that will get them disbarred. What they don’t know is that all these laws that states have on the books to regulate the agent industry are strictly paper ordinances. There is zero enforcement. What’s more, you really have to mess up for the PA to go after you. On the other hand, FINRA is the real deal, and a financial advisor can get completely wrecked if he messes up a player’s money.
  • When you’re a financial advisor, you have two choices. You can try to sign players who have a responsible, refined attitude about money and spending (they’re rare) or you can sign players who take a lottery approach to NFL riches (much more common). If you get kids in the latter group, you’re basically forced to be the ‘no’ guy all the time. Meanwhile, if you’re an agent, once you get your client to a contract (not easy, but still), for the life of that contract, he has to pay you. Even if he fires you. He can bitch and whine, but you have security. Financial advisors can be (and are) fired for no good reason all the time.

You may be considering one of these two career paths. Hopefully, this helps you if you’re weighing both. Have a great weekend.

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