BDO, one of Australia’s most highly regarded financial services providers, have been RUPA’s official Accounting and Audit partner since June 2017.
A key facet of the partnership is their work with players under the umbrella of RUPA’s Player Development Program (PDP), educating players through both group (foundation) and individual financial health checks, as well as presenting to players at the annual RUPA Induction Camp and meeting with Player Agents at the annual Player Agent Accreditation Conference.
Many current and former professional Rugby players engage BDO to manage their finances, alongside athletes from all of the leading sporting codes in the country.
RUPA’s Pete Fairbairn sat down with Mark Wilkinson, BDO Partner, to talk about the different ways in which players could benefit from utilising BDO’s services through either the RUPA PDP or through engaging BDO on a private basis.
PF: Good morning Mark. We were speaking recently about the services BDO provides for one of Australia’s highest profile professional athletes within another code. Can you talk me through the process where this athlete ended up having BDO manage their finances?
MW: "BDO’s history of working with elite athletes over the years means that many player managers approach us on behalf of their players. In looking to identify a reasonable mid-tier accounting firm who would be able to liaise with this athlete on an inter-personal basis, but also have the skillset required to provide the level of pro-active financial advice, the athlete received a recommendation that we would be good people to work with and once we explained what we were able to do for them they asked us to make it happen."
PF: Can you explain what services you actually provide for this particular, and other, athletes?
MW: "Basically, we manage their financial affairs as their in-house financial controller. We receive all of their financial data electronically, and because this particular athlete is deriving income that is subject to GST and above the $75,000 threshold, there are quarterly BAS requirements which we are able to help them deal with throughout the financial year.
"As this athlete travels a lot and is often interstate or overseas, meeting deadlines can be problematic at times so we established that the best way to ensure complicity would be to have direct access into their banking and be able to collect the feeds and prepare the documentation in advance."
"What we find ourselves doing is liaising with both the athlete and their manager to keep track on everything, including advising on image rights and tracking all legislation to take advantage of opportunities presented when we structure their affairs."
PF: It sounds like the primary way you service that athlete is through compliance and allocation of earnings. How about investment advice, re-financing and improving day to day financial understanding?
MW: "We definitely help with cash flow, property schemes, advising whether rental properties are a good source of income generation depending on their circumstances; helping them with all of the steps necessary to ensure that athletes are able to retain as much of the wealth generated from their career as possible."
PF: We’ve got a very different situation compared to a market in the US, where some athletes are earning enough money to ensure they never have to work again, whereas almost all Australian athletes will move on to another career after they retire from playing professional sport. How important is it that athletes set themselves up while they’re potentially earning at their peak, and how important is it that they have enough understanding of their finances that they can make the appropriate decisions?
MW: "It’s absolutely vital for anybody to have a degree of understanding of what’s involved in establishing a financial plan for life. Whether you are an athlete, professional or blue-collar worker it’s important to have a thorough understanding of budgeting, living within your means and planning for the future.
"As part of our partnership with RUPA, we can see that there’s a great deal of emphasis on helping players plan for life outside of Rugby. At the same time, to the extent that you’re not necessarily earning life-changing amounts like athletes in the US, the reality is that for some people the money that they make as an elite sportsperson is the most money that they’ll earn throughout their entire career. Hence, it’s important to set aside some part of that to underwrite your future life, whether it’s purchasing assets such as property or focusing on your superannuation."
PF: There’s also that genuine possibility that once an athlete retires, their first few years of the next career could see a substantial decrease in earnings or even complete loss of earnings if they decide to, for example, study full time.
MW: That’s right, and for those who do earn really good money, the ability to take a relatively small amount, put it aside and not spend it at the time is critical. As a 30-year-old, if you’ve been able to set aside an additional $200,000 of superannuation, for example, the effect of compound interest on that will mean that when you get to retirement you have a very sizable nest egg already established. It means that even if your salary is halved, or less, you’ve already tucked away a significant amount of money for your future.
PF: Every athlete in every code has different requirements from their player managers or agents. Working with BDO, how important is it that the player and their agent are both working with you towards achieving shared goals?
MW: It’s so important, and our role is absolutely not to usurp the player manager in any capacity. We may end up with a longer-term relationship after the player’s athletic career is finished, but we are there as support for the managers and the players to make sure what needs to be done for that player at that time can be achieved in the most efficient manner.
PF: Essentially, if an agent is utilising the services of a provider such as BDO and the athlete is having a positive experience with you, that reflects well upon the agent as well.
MW: "Yes it does, and BDO can bring consistency in our deliverables to players and agents with offices around Australia and across 162 countries and territories to ensure that the services can be delivered in the same fashion if the player relocated interstate or abroad."
PF: We’ve been partnered with BDO for a couple of years now, and you’ve met many of our players through Induction Camp and also through meeting with agents at the annual Player Agent Accreditation Conference. That being said, the financial health checks you provide to players in either a group or individual setting are probably the key benefit of our partnership, aren’t they?
MW: "That’s correct, yes. The foundation (group) session is designed to provide an overview of some of the opportunities available for players, and that’s a new offering that we’ve rolled out within the Australian Rugby Sevens program and will now look to implement within the four Super Rugby clubs. It provides an overview of some topical issues in an informal setting and is tailored to the people in the room based on their age and earning capability. This also helps set them up to ensure that the one-on-one health checks (which are fully covered by RUPA) is specific for them. It allows the player to prepare for that and know what they want to achieve out of it and allows us to work with them to establish a life plan for their finances."
If you’re a current player and would like to utilise BDO services, please speak to your Player Development Manager.
If you’re a past player and would like an introduction to BDO please contact Patrick Phibbs, and if you’re an Accredited Player Agent and would like an introduction to BDO please contact Toby Duncan. To find out more about BDO, click here.