Six Trends Driving the Sports Trusted Advisor Business and How Technology Can Help

An NBA All-Star traveling in Italy wants to know if he can pay cash on the spot for a new luxury watch. A Heisman trophy winner embarking on his career with a multimillion-dollar contract wants to ensure his wealth lasts a lifetime, not just for the duration of his contract. An entrepreneurial athlete wants help overseeing accounts payable and receivable for multiple businesses she’s invested in — a restaurant, a clothing line and an auto dealership — as well as a charitable foundation she and her husband founded.

Professional athletes are always on the go, whether in the car, at the gym or warming up for a championship game. And their wealth is often complex, involving multiple entities, investments and cash flow streams. Therefore, sports trusted advisors who serve professional athletes face a unique set of challenges.

To help sports trusted advisors attract, retain and grow their client lists, we’ve identified six trends driving this industry and how technology can help them thrive in this fast-moving environment.

Mergers and acquisitions (M&As) are on the rise

The business of serving high-net-worth individuals — whether athletes, business owners or family offices — is changing rapidly. In 2021, over $66 billion in M&A transactions were completed across the wealth management industry, nearly matching 2020’s $68 billion record.1

Larger organizations are acquiring focused, experienced teams to fill gaps in their menu of offerings, often zeroing in on specialized professionals in niche areas, like sports advisory. In many cases, these strategic buyers allow acquired companies to continue to operate independently.

Often, acquired companies maintain their own accounting and treasury platforms. In these instances, a secure multi-client bill payment and client accounting solution, like AgilLink®, can enable firms to scale their business while adding more control.

Increasing number of independent firms

At the same time, top-tier advisors are leaving big banks and brokerages to start their own firms. A 2022 study by Cerulli Associates projects that major banks and brokerages will lose 2.4% of their advisors between 2020 and 2025, while hybrid Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) will gain 2.2%, and independent RIA headcounts will increase by 2.1%.2

A modern, fully featured tech stack is critical to the success of an independent firm. An ideal tech stack gives sports industry firms the ability to combine all the technologies they need to do business efficiently.

Consider all the issues that advisors who are leaving large organizations must address. For example, do they have secure compliance systems that maintain client privacy? The right technology platform can provide turnkey systems that ensure security and confidentiality.

How much office space is needed? Can they operate virtually, as many firms did during the pandemic, or do they need a centralized hub for their operations? Those who opt for a virtual or hybrid working environment will need to ensure that their technology supports seamless access and unbreakable security. And firms that decide to maintain physical space will have to consider how to finance equipment, such as computers, furniture and other amenities.

Depending on the situation, it may be more cost-efficient to lease or finance office equipment from a provider like First American Equipment Finance.4 These options can provide greater cash flow instead of laying out funds upfront to purchase required equipment.

The cloud is changing the industry

The call comes in at 11:30 p.m. on the Friday before a long holiday weekend. A global soccer star is sure that he’s already sent in an investment to a venture capital fund, but the fund’s general partner says he hasn’t received it. His sports trusted advisor’s office is closed, as is the bank. So, how can the advisor confirm whether the check went through?

Fortunately, using AgilLink, the sports trusted advisor can access her client’s accounts from anywhere she has internet access, find the payment and straighten out the problem, all well before the bank opens its physical offices again on Tuesday.

However, the benefits of cloud-based software go well beyond 24/7 access. They protect clients’ information and assets with bank-level security to prevent hacks and malware attacks. Because there are no longer on-premises servers located in one place, they are also less vulnerable to disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes or power outages. And this software is continually updated and improved automatically.

“As sports trusted advisory firms grow, it becomes ever more important to have a modern tech stack,” Todd Burach, senior vice president and senior relationship manager at City National® explains. “AgilLink is our cloud-based, off-the-shelf solution that allows firms to efficiently scale their business with the proper controls and security in place.”

The talent crunch

Talent at every level, from producing financial advisors to operations staff, is at a premium. A recent “Independent Advisor Outlook Study” found that almost 40% of firms surveyed cited finding talent as one of their top challenges.3

As sports advisory firms add clients, a robust technology platform software that automates and streamlines payment and accounting processes can help avoid the need to add more bookkeepers and administrative staff. A scalable, fully featured accounting and treasury management system can also eliminate repetitive responsibilities that support staff currently performs manually.

“We find that upgrading technology can reduce the need for new hires while increasing retention and morale among existing staff,” says Mark Wickersham, AgilLink vice president of strategy, marketing and business development. “Teams that used to spend their time manually rekeying data can focus on more rewarding activities, like client service. And when employees are happier, they tend to stick around longer.”

Increased digitalization

Sports trusted advisors must be able to manage high-earning athletes’ careers and finances no matter where their clients are, whether on a private jet heading to a playoff game, out at an upscale restaurant that they’ve invested in or in a boisterous locker room. As a sports trusted advisor’s client base grows, managing payments for these individuals becomes more complex. In addition, high-net-worth sports professionals often have little time and tolerance for errors or delays. So, missing a single payment can jeopardize an entire relationship. To serve this clientele, sports trusted advisors must be able to keep up, accessing information and completing transactions seamlessly whenever clients require it.

Embedded banking is beneficial and helpful because sports trusted advisors who rely heavily on their smartphones can create payments and banking invoices. This technology integrates all accounting and payment systems to provide fast, accurate access to information about client accounts, as well as efficient payment processing using application programming interfaces (APIs) or file transmission capabilities. Software automates most manual, error-prone processes, speeding up your ability to serve clients and reducing the potential for mistakes.

For more information on embedded banking and City National Bank’s Treasury Management Solution’s EASI Link® integration, read our article, “Businesses Gain Big Benefits from Open Banking.”

On-the-go access is a must

Sports trusted advisors and professional athletes who are always on the move are becoming more tech-savvy than ever before. Therefore, sports trusted advisors require technology solutions that can keep up, with reliable mobile services and apps.

Digital access to real-time data can allow sports trusted advisors to answer client questions and requests, anywhere and anytime. Mobile solutions can also help these advisors review transactions, track bill payment and provide an effective way to manage risk while on the go.

Customized banking solutions for firms that service professional athletes

Athletes can be multi-faceted clients, requiring advisors who can handle complex, multi-entity bill payments and accounts; respond rapidly to inquiries and requests; and provide accurate, secure services that protect their privacy and assets.

City National offers sports trusted advisors the tools, support and guidance they need to protect their clients’ financial health and happiness. This includes digital capabilities and “always-on” responsiveness to help them resolve issues on behalf of their clients.

We have the expertise and understanding of end-clients’ atypical lifestyles and cash flows to provide the service and products they need. And as sports trusted advisors’ businesses grow, we can help them scale without needing to add staff or take on huge IT expenses.

For more information about how we can help you grow your sports advisor business, visit

1 “Wealth Management M&A: Scale Up and Digitize,” Bain & Company, February 8, 2022

2 “6 major trends for financial advisors in 2022: Cerulli study,” Financial Planning, February 21, 2022

3 “2022 Independent Advisor Outlook Study,” Charles Schwab, 2022

4 Equipment financing and leasing are offered by First American Equipment Finance, a subsidiary of City National Bank, and are subject to credit approval by, and documentation acceptable to, First American Equipment Finance. For California clients: Loans made or arranged pursuant to a California Finance Lenders Law license.

This article is provided as a courtesy to the clients and friends of City National Bank and managed affiliates and subsidiaries (City National). City National 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 City National. Please cite source when quoting.

City National Bank, its affiliates and subsidiaries, as a matter of policy, do not give tax, accounting, regulatory or legal advice, and any information provided should not be construed as such. Rules in the areas of law, tax and accounting are subject to change and open to varying interpretations. You should consult with your other advisors on the tax, accounting and legal implications of actions you may take based on any strategies presented, taking into account your own particular circumstances. This material is being delivered for informational purposes only and should not be considered tax advice. This information is subject to change, and City National Bank has no responsibility for informing you of any future changes.

AgilLink is an RBC company and is an affiliate of City National Bank.

All loans, lines of credit and other credit products are subject to credit approval. Additional terms and conditions apply. Not all products and services are available in all geographic areas or regions.