In this podcast, Todd Burach, Senior Vice President, Team Leader, of City National Bank joins Mark Wickersham, VP of Strategy, Marketing, and Business Development of AgilLink in a conversation sharing insights and discussing trends around finance in the exciting world of professional sports.
Todd Burach is a Senior Vice President, Team Leader at City National Bank. The primary market focus for Todd and his team is the professional sports industry, covering three specific vertical markets. The first is the trusted advisor market, where they work through key advisors to some of the leading professional athletes in the world, to help them optimize financial opportunities for their clients. They also work with a number of pro sports teams and leagues. Finally, they work with firms in the professional sports ecosystem that provide support for businesses in and around the pro sports space.
Mark Wickersham is VP of Strategy, Marketing, and Business Development at AgilLink.
This synopsis is of a podcast conversation between Mark Wickersham and Todd Burach.
Note that the conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
ABOUT CITY NATIONAL BANK SPORTS BANKING TEAM
The sports and entertainment group at City National Bank works with athletes in all professional leagues (including the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS, and the WNBA), business managers, multi-family offices, agents, wealth planners, and accountants to help them take advantage of opportunities and achieve financial success. Some members of Todd’s team are former athletes themselves, and the entire team shares a passion for sports. Their goal is to help their clients make the most of their wealth so that it lasts well after their playing days.
WHAT SHOULD FIRMS BE AWARE OF WHEN IT COMES TO ATHLETES AS CLIENTS?
Mark opened the session by posing this question, “Todd, I know a lot of firms, multifamily offices in particular, are looking to expand their roster a little bit and want to attract and service professional athletes. Obviously, you spend a lot of time with firms that service those athletes as well as athletes themselves. What should firms be aware of when it comes to trying to attract and service these types of clients?”
Burach says, “Getting into this industry is something you can't do quickly if you want to be in it for the long term. It's got to be done the right way, and it's got to be a long-term commitment. You can't just say, ‘Hey, we're in sports and entertainment.’ You’ve got to back it up with solutions, expertise, and experience and product. It takes a real commitment from a culture perspective, from a product perspective, and from an investment perspective, including understanding the risks. When you do it the right way, not only can it be an exciting and lucrative place to be, but you can also make a real difference in the lives of the athletes and their families that you serve.”
WHAT DO PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES EXPECT FROM THEIR FINANCIAL ADVISORS?
Todd provided these insights, “It comes down to a few basic things. First and foremost, athletes in general struggle with financial acumen. Consider that early-on these athletes suddenly come into major revenue streams from their name, image, and likeness. Then they get a signing bonus, and all of a sudden, they've got a whole bunch of money at a very young age on the back of minimal financial education. Since some are going to earn 96% of their career lifetime earnings in their first five to six years, they can’t afford to make any financial mistakes. If you make a mistake when you're 24, you may have already made 80% of your lifetime earnings, and you don't really have a chance to come back from that unless you're able to reinvent yourself from a career perspective.”
He continues, “At a minimum, advisors need to have the willingness and the time to be financial coaches in addition to financial advisors. It’s teaching as you go and building relationships. You’ve got to get the basic stuff right, such as asset allocation, savings, budgeting, trusts and estates, and insurance. Then there's the service perspective of being available whenever the client needs you. Little things like that differentiate you from others and help build lasting relationships.”
WHAT ABOUT BILL-PAY SERVICES?
Burach responds, “That’s a great question, and it's definitely a trend that we're seeing in the space across sports and general family offices. There's a push to be holistic in your offering to clients, and with it, there's an upfront investment in technology needed. The beauty of a system like AgilLink is that it can grow with your business. You can add accounts without having to add bodies, and as your staff gets more comfortable with the system, there's a lot more efficiency that you can get out of it, so scalability plays a big part in your ability to offer a service like bill-pay.”
He continues, “Security is also an area that needs to be addressed. If you think about the world we live in, especially with well-known athletes, or well-known wealthy families, security is a major concern. A lot of stuff is online, and so as an advisor, you've got to look for solutions that provide security from people outside, as well as people inside. You've got to have multiple controls and audit functions available and engaged to protect your clients and to protect your business.”
He adds, “Customization is another big area which has to be addressed for bill pay. You need to be able to customize workflows for individual clients and families based on needs, and on approval levels and authorization rights. At a minimum, scalability, security, and customization are the three biggest areas that you need to think about when you're considering implementing a bill-pay service.”
WHAT’S THE MOST COMMON MISTAKE MADE BY FIRMS CONSIDERING BILL PAY SERVICES?
Mark offered the following, “We see two different types of firms, firms that are interested and want to know the right way to build it from scratch, and then firms that have started that process and maybe have gotten sideways on it. What do you see as some of the common mistakes that firms make when they start to offer that service?”
Burach says, “I feel the key issue is human resistance to change. People fall in love with the process that they've used for so many years, but technology has changed the way we work, and there are opportunities to do things more efficiently, or with better security. You’ve got to re-think your processes to take advantage of technology, and one of the biggest challenges or mistakes that I see a lot of firms make is not being receptive to questioning everything they do, and every process they have when upgrading their technology or considering new services like bill pay.”
WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING IN THE MARKETPLACE?
Burach offers the following insights: “The biggest thing that I'm watching right now is the consolidation of firms, specifically within the sports space. There's a handful of firms that operate in this ecosystem, and there’s been a number of substantial meaningful roll-ups that we've been watching over the last six to twelve months. In the general family wealth and family office space, you're seeing it as well because common technology is allowing firms to join together and take the benefit of streamlined processes. I would also add that this is financial-technology-fueled. Because of these common, standardized, systems, you’re also seeing a lot of advisors leave wirehouses and go independent. Those two things are probably the biggest trends I've been watching in this space.”
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF WOMEN’S SPORTS LOOK LIKE?
Mark asked Todd the following, “I know, Todd, we're both big women's sports fans, and it's been great to see the momentum and the success, especially in women's soccer and women's basketball, both those leagues are doing great. What does the future for women's sports look like and what should people be keeping an eye out for?”
Todd responded with the following, “I'm very excited about the future of the WNBA, and the NWSL. It’s been said that men's sports have traditionally been invested in based on potential, and women's sports have been invested in based on results. So for a long time, money hasn’t been invested in the women's game in advance of potential growth, and that’s changing.
A lot of this goes back to the WNBA players during their bubble season, during COVID. They fully embraced who they are as a league and what they bring to the table. They’ve run with it, and they've taken off. They’re fun to watch. They've got celebrities, and off-court content about the NWSL players. Plus, the WNBA players are really raising awareness of the potential of women's sports. I think when you look at percentage growth numbers across all sports, women's sports crushed it this past year.”
KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW NOW, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Mark said, “To wrap up here, Todd, just on a personal note, especially around career advice and where you're at in your career, maybe if somebody's starting out in banking, or family office space, or even if you had a conversation with you younger self, what career advice would you give?”
Burach reflects on this before answering. ”I think one of the biggest challenges that young professionals face — and I definitely dealt with this early in my career — is that you don't have a career goal that you're driving towards. I think most folks enter the business world without a specific career goal, and it's very tough for most people to determine what they want to do.”
He continues, “Remember the old Yogi-ism, ‘If you don't know where you're going, you might not get there’? I really believe in that saying. If you add two to four objectives related to your career goal, it's going to help you focus your efforts on reaching your goal. For example, when you go to people in your network and ask for help, and if you're able to provide them with those objectives, it'll enable them to give you more applicable feedback and introductions. Objectives could be things like the location where you want to work, big company vs small company, or marketing vs sales. Again, using specific objectives, contacts in your network will be able to provide contacts in their networks that will be able to help you out.”
Burach continues, “The second thing to realize is that your goals are going to change as you grow. Things that I looked for as a 22-year-old out of college were different than when I was 32 for a number of reasons, including my work experiences, changes in the market, and changes in my personal life. Every 12 to 24 months, I think it's really important to ask yourself if your life goals have changed. Having that conversation with yourself not only helps you stay on track with what you're trying to achieve, but it also helps the people around you, in your inner circle, support you and help you get there. That's what I wish I would've known when I was younger.”
This article is for general information and education only. It is provided as a courtesy to the clients and friends of AgilLink. AgilLink does not warrant that it is accurate or complete. Opinions expressed and estimates or projections given are those of the authors or persons quoted as of the date of the article with no obligation to update or notify of inaccuracy or change. This article may not be reproduced, distributed or further published by any person without the written consent of AgilLink. Please cite source when quoting.
This podcast is for general information and education only and is provided as a courtesy to the clients and friends of AgilLink. It is compiled from data and sources believed to be reliable, however AgilLink does not warrant that it is accurate or complete. Opinions expressed and estimates given are those of the speaker as of the date of the podcast with no obligation to update or notify of inaccuracy or change.
City National Bank is a subsidiary of Royal Bank of Canada. Deposit products and services are provided by City National Bank.