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Merrill Rolls Out Exclusive HNW Sports, Entertainment Designation

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What You Need to Know

  • Merrill Lynch and the College for Financial Planning joined forces to create and launch the new sports and entertainment designation program for advisors.program.
  • The College is offering the program exclusively to Merrill advisors through May 2022.
  • Athletes and other celebrities have often been taken advantage of by unscrupulous advisors and crooks claiming to be advisors.

Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and the College for Financial Planning have launched a new designation program for wealth advisors serving the specialized financial needs of professionals in the sports and entertainment sectors.

The Sports & Entertainment Accredited Wealth Management Advisor program is the first professional designation from an accredited college that is designed to provide advisors with the training and knowledge to help high-net-worth clients “grow, preserve, and transfer their wealth,” Merrill and the College said in a statement Monday.

In recognition for Merrill’s collaboration on the design of the new program, the College is offering it exclusively to Merrill advisors through May 2022.

Also, in conjunction with the program’s introduction, Merrill says it has created an internal Sports and Entertainment group to better support advisors who focus on clients in these industries.

Problems for Pro Athletes, Other Stars

The financial challenges faced by individuals and families who experience sudden wealth in the sports and entertainment industries are well documented.

Citing the book “F.L.A.G (Fraud, Lies & Greed): Cautionary Tales of How Professional Athletes Become the Victims of Fraud,” Merrill and the College say 80% of National Football League players and 60% of National Basketball Association players face bankruptcy or serious financial stress within two years of retiring from those sports league, while Major League Baseball players are four times more likely to file for bankruptcy than the national average.

Pro athletes and other celebrities have also often been taken advantage of by financial advisors and brokers, as well as people claiming to be advisors and brokers.

For example, the former advisor of 2021 NBA Hall of Fame inductee Tim Duncan was sentenced to a four-year prison sentence in 2017 for defrauding his client. Duncan filed a $1 million lawsuit against Banks in federal court in 2015, arguing in a court document that the advisor had committed “egregious breaches of his trust.”

“Merrill has a long history of serving the complex needs of clients in the sports and entertainment industries through every stage of their career and life, as well as over multiple generations,” said to Don Plaus, head of Merrill Private Wealth Management, in a statement.

“The distinct financial challenges that sports and entertainment professionals possess over their careers are the very reasons why they need a financial advisor who is qualified to address those challenges,” according to Dirk Pantone, president of the College, which is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

“From a sudden-wealth event to an uneven or multiple income stream to an unknown career span, these professionals have added complexities in their financial lives and goals,” he explained.

More Program Details

The new advisor accreditation program was designed to use real-world client situations and case studies to illustrate planning techniques and strategies that are “instantly applicable to servicing client needs,” Pantone added.

The new program will provide participants with knowledge of how to analyze and evaluate numerous wealth planning strategies, including qualitative planning, trusts, investments, retirement benefits, cash flow and tax planning, business and estate planning, and how to customize plans and solutions for each client’s unique circumstances.

The College provides a digital learning platform to access course materials and study tools, with a choice of live, online or on-demand classes, as well as experienced, expert faculty who provide personalized guidance in and outside the classroom.

The coursework also provides credits toward other education programs through the College, including their education program for certified financial planner certification and a Master of Science degree in personal financial planning.

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