With so many brokers chasing gridiron stars, it's surprising that the Twilley/Monger partnership at Merrill Lynch isn't interested in scoring NFL clients. Young athletes, says the practice's Matt Monger, make less than ideal clients.
And he should know. Monger and his partner, Howard Twilley, spent a combined 17 seasons in the league.
“We have a better connection with business owners,” says Monger, who was a linebacker for the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, noting that Twilley at one time owned 30 athletic footwear stores. Businesspeople, he says, are a lot more sophisticated when it comes to investing. “We believe in educating our clients, and from a time standpoint, we spend less time with them than with athletes.”
Wooing athletes is costly in other ways. Former Boston Bruin Derek Sanderson resigned from State Street Global Advisors, reportedly after the firm turned down his request to fly a hockey player and potential client to a Stanley Cup celebration. The firm shut down the professionals group Sanderson headed, created to target athletes, and folded it into its private asset management unit.
Twilley/Monger's group remains strong at Merrill's Tulsa, Okla., office, where it's part of a bigger sports franchise. Jeff Jordan, who was a safety with the Minnesota Vikings, leads another investment team, as does Fallon Wacasey, a former tight end for the Dallas Cowboys. Steve August, who was an offensive lineman for the Seattle Seahawks, is also a broker there.
None actively recruit NFL players, though they have a few in their stable.
Twilley/Monger is mostly fee-based with an emphasis on managed money and financial planning. Monger says they stress Merrill's Consults program of privately managed accounts for investors with a minimum investment of $250,000.
“We do not invest according to a formula,” Monger says. “We spend a lot of time on the front end, educating clients, formulating a written game plan. Then we find the investment to meet the game plan, instead of pushing investments on the client. Our philosophy is to take care of people. If you provide good service, they'll send other people.”
“Our investment philosophy is to buy quality, diversify and be patient. Time will determine the risk and the return,” Monger says.
So why all the ex-pros in Tulsa? One friend followed another, and soon there were five. For a while, it looked there just might be four.
“When Steve came looking for a job, we actually didn't want to hire him because we felt it would look too much like a sports office,” says Monger. “But Steve was so solid we had to bring him in, knowing it would make us a better, well-rounded team.”