Sports and Entertainment Director Kathleen Kunkler provides financial strategies to women in sports, including coaches and athletes.
Kathleen Kunkler feels fortunate to have been able to forge a 30-year career that combines two of her passions: women’s athletics and helping clients build their financial futures. Athletics has always been a central part of Kathleen’s identity. She led her Kansas City high school team to a state basketball championship and played both basketball and softball as an undergraduate at William Woods University. She began her career as a Financial Advisor at Dean Witter, which later merged with Morgan Stanley.
Kathleen is now a part of the Chapline Ludwig Kunkler Group at Morgan Stanley in Kansas City, where she serves as First Vice President, Wealth Management. Kathleen is also a Sports and Entertainment Director in Morgan Stanley’s Global Sports and Entertainment division, which is dedicated to serving the unique and sophisticated needs of professional athletes and entertainers.
When asked how financial advising has changed during her career, Kathleen says, “At the beginning of my career, advising was product driven and less holistic; now, it’s more individual and focused on long-range and holistic planning.” She continues, “I like to describe myself as a financial GPS. You have to plug in where you are first and then where you want to go. My job is to offer strategies designed to help you reach your destination…even through unexpected detours.”
Throughout her career, she has been a member of the Women Leaders in College Sports, an organization advocating for the advancement of women to leadership positions in collegiate athletics, and the Women’s Intersport Network of Kansas City, one of the largest organizations in the country that advocates for girls in athletics. “I expect that female coaches will become more frequent in male leagues like the NFL and NBA. It’s a growing opportunity, but it’s going to take even more progressive franchises or coaches that will take the risk of hiring a woman,” says Kathleen.
Kathleen sees a future in which women’s influence in the market will grow as more women are investing, especially as “more women gain key leadership positions in athletics and in the boardrooms of Fortune 500 companies” and gender parity advances narrowing the income gap.
About 10 years into her career as a Financial Advisor, Kathleen was considering a transition to a career in women’s sports, but conversations at a women’s sports conference made her realize there was a need for someone to help women in the business of sports and athletes navigate their unique financial needs. “I work with a variety of women in sports, from female athletic directors to NCAA basketball coaches and WNBA players. While my clients are diverse, they will all experience the difficulties of short and unpredictable careers, which is why having a plan in place is so important to be financially successful long-term.”
Kathleen notes that one of the unique challenges is that WNBA players—whose salaries are capped around $100,000—don't have financial parity with their colleagues in the NBA, where a rookie’s salary starts at over $500,000. As a result, most WNBA athletes play abroad in the off-season, where international tax considerations impact financial planning. Further, women’s athletic careers are significantly shorter than men’s—often just five to six years—and provide fewer opportunities for post-career endorsements, which provide long-term financial security for many male athletes. She says, “I believe it’s my job to help them develop a well-balanced financial game plan that will prepare them for life after basketball.”
Athletic Departments, and coaching in particular, can make for a volatile job market. Kathleen must make sure her clients are prepared for the worst, and adjust their investment strategy to reflect the volatility of their professions. “It’s important that coaches understand it may not be up to them when they leave their job. That’s why their cash flow management looks a lot different than the average career path. Athletic administrators face similar challenges.”
Kathleen is enthusiastic about Morgan Stanley’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. She notes, “Early on, Morgan Stanley understood that diversity is good business and it’s the right business.” She sees this evidenced by Morgan Stanley’s programs that address the unique challenges of underserved groups such as women, female athletes, LGBT individuals and families, and college students.
In addition to volunteering with Women Leaders in College Sports, she is an active supporter of LGBT causes in Kansas City, and where she also provides financial literacy education to college students. Kathleen and her partner recently chaired a major LGBT Pride event in Kansas City and she was awed by Morgan Stanley’s support and visible presence at the event. As she says, “Morgan Stanley really walks the walk.”