The world of professional sports, despite being a bastion of high-net-worth prospects, has not exactly enjoyed a magnetic effect on the financial advisory profession.
It may be no small wonder. While many financial advisors preach discipline and forethought, the sports world is often a fast-paced place of shady business deals, where millionaires are made and broken practically overnight. That's not exactly the type of environment where advisors can easily get their message across.
Yet some still try-and succeed. Christopher Franklin, founder, owner and chief executive of Titan Financial Services Inc. in Waldorf, Md., has spent time working on both sides of the fence. He spent eight years as a vice president at Falk Associates Management Enterprises and ProServ, full-service sports management firms representing some of the highest-paid athletes in professional sports.
In 1993, Franklin left ProServ to start his own financial advisory firm, specializing in doing financial planning for pro athletes, the majority of them NFL players.
Franklin, however, sees his business more as a mission. The goal: bringing sensible, sound and ethically responsible financial planning services to the professional sports arena.
By ethically responsible, Franklin means that the business is distinctly independent, taking no referrals from or having relationships with sports agents. That, he insists, is a rarity in professional sports.
"Being independent and separate from agent involvement, and other entities we deal with, we make sure that our advice is independent," Franklin says. "We want our products that we recommend to be based on their risk tolerance."
Dealing with clients who are in a fast-money business, Franklin emphasizes the slow and steady approach, both for them and his own business.
Running the business with his wife Marilyn, who is vice president of the firm, Franklin has more than $20 million in assets under management. Most of his clients are either former or current football players, including Chris Doleman, a retired All-Pro defensive lineman with the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers, Marvin Harrison, an All-Pro wide receiver with the Indianapolis Colts, and Shaun Ellis, a defensive lineman with the New York Jets. His clients also include former NBA basketball player Travis Mays and Dennis Scott, a former NBA player and coach.
It's a list of clients that has its own special set of needs, circumstances and pitfalls, Franklin says. In the case of football players, for example, Franklin says financial planning almost becomes a case of Russian roulette. That's because NFL contracts, except for signing bonuses, are not guaranteed. Franklin notes that most of his clients are in a position where one freak injury could wipe out millions of potential income. "When I'm looking at the financial future of a first-year NFL player, I have to remember that their first year might be their last year," he says.