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Mark is a Partner in the Cleveland office and has more than thirty years of experience advising corporate executives, international professional tennis players and golfers, major league baseball and football players, entertainers, and a prominent high-net-worth family.
Prior to joining Cerity Partners, Mark was the Managing Director of Tax for MAI Wealth Advisors, LLC, formerly an affiliate of IMG in Cleveland, Ohio. He was a member of the firm’s Senior Management Team and responsible for the delivery of all facets of the firm’s comprehensive tax advisory services. Before MAI Wealth Advisors, Mark was a tax accountant at Coopers & Lybrand responsible for the delivery of tax services to corporate executives and small businesses. Earlier in his career, he was a staff accountant with James Hirschauer & Co. and provided tax and accounting services to business owners and entrepreneurs.
What made you want to pursue a career path that focused on athletes?
I came out of public accounting when I was at International Management Group where I ran a tax practice. I became involved in all the financial aspects of a client, particularly people in the sports world. Most of my clients are very good people. But with athletes, there’s more of an educational process. They’re more appreciative of what you do because they don’t understand any of it.
I like the teaching and building trust over time. Most professional athletes have a hard time trusting people because everyone wants something from them. With our firm, we’re providing something, but we’re not necessarily asking anything of them.
What makes working with athletes unique?
You’re handling things you may not normally handle for other clients. One of those things is getting them disability insurance. You also need to get them commercial liability insurance to some degree. And you need to establish a budgeting process. For example, team sports players mostly work on the gross instead of the net. They may not have filed a tax return in their life. While you and I file one state return, they may file multiple state returns wherever they earn money. I also have international clients, so I must know how which countries establish filings, for example. So, there can be complicating elements to representing them.
In a way, you’re not just their wealth advisor, you’re also an educator.
And they appreciate it. A lot of them come from a situation where mom and dad are doing everything. And they just want mom and dad to be mom and dad and not their business manager. They never had anything explained to them before. They never understood income tax. They don’t understand insurance or have a retirement plan. They also need to save at a certain level. So, I’ll go through areas with them.
I recently had a conversation with another partner who asked me how I sell our services. I said, “I don’t.” I said I just get to know them a little bit and to try to understand their level of sophistication involving their finances. Based on that, I can talk about what we can do for them.
Many of your clients tend to be very young because they’re at the start of their careers. Why is talking about retirement now so important for a sports player?
Because now is the point in time they have an income to set aside for their future. The careers are so short in team sports and the pensions aren’t great. Since they have a higher income stream in their earlier age, they can put some of it aside and let it grow for 40-some years.
What makes Cerity Partners stand out?
Experience. We’ve done the work so many times that we know what needs to be addressed, in what order, and we can explain to the client why and get their approval to go forward.
Cerity Partners has an architecture that appeals to me. I feel more comfortable presenting to my clients now than I did at my old firm. We’re not saying “we can do that” when we have no experience in that area. We have a team that can provide all the services a client needs whenever they’re needed.
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