Leylah Fernandez urges athletes to turn out to be financially literate

Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada returns a backhand against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia during their singles first round match at Internazionali BNL D’Italia at Foro Italico on May 09, 2022 in Rome, Italy.

Alex Pantling | Getty Images

Leylah Fernandez is no ordinary 20-year-old. She is one of the best tennis players in the world. She has won two Women’s Tennis Association titles and was a 2021 US Open finalist.

But Fernandez is also making a name for herself off the court – and she is passionate about financial literacy.

This week Fernandez was in New York as MorganStanley and the WTA announced a new, multi-year global partnership. The program promotes inclusion and expands access to the game of tennis. In addition, the partnership includes financial education and planning resources for players.

“Morgan Stanley’s partnership with the WTA is a huge step forward for women’s sport in general. I’m excited to see companies supporting women’s sports because there’s so much we can do together and improve together,” Morgan Stanley brand ambassador Fernandez told CNBC in an interview Wednesday.

Fernandez said many of her competitors are worried about having a career-ending injury and not knowing what to do. The Morgan-Stanley program will help prepare, she added.

“We focus on tennis our whole lives. That’s all we know, but we can’t always rely on it. I want to have that stability, that thought that everything is going to be fine and that we need to have those resources,” she said.

Given her connection to Morgan Stanley, Fernandez said she feels an additional responsibility not only to ask financial questions for her own good, but to encourage others on the tour to have the same confidence.

“It would be great if we could have conferences to open the conversation in a healthy environment where WTA players feel comfortable speaking their minds. I think the difficulty is that we want to be perceived as strong and we want to know everything, but we don’t,” she told CNBC.

Morgan Stanley was drawn to Fernandez’s example of leadership.

“She is a role model that people can see themselves in. It also reflects our brand values, including giving back to the community and valuing equity and inclusion,” said Alice Milligan, Morgan Stanley’s chief marketing officer.

Alice Milligan, Leylah Annie Fernandez and Micky Lawler attend the Morgan Stanley x Women’s Tennis Association Partnership Launch on March 1, 2023 in New York City.

Mike Coppola | Getty Images

In addition to her involvement with Morgan Stanley, she has worked with Fernandez Lululemon, alphabet‘s Google and Subway. Fernandez said she learned a lot from her experience in the business world.

“In the beginning I was afraid to ask questions because I feared it would be stupid or way too easy, but asking questions is the most important thing. I need to be financially stable in post-tennis life, so participating will open my eyes and mind to a new world,” she told CNBC.

While Fernandez, who hails from Canada, travels the world to tennis tournaments and climbed to a career rank of 13 last summer, her education is making her priority. She is studying business administration at Indiana University East, which, along with the Women’s Tennis Benefits Association, has a partnership with the WTA to allow players to graduate high school online while competing on the tour.

As for her future ambitions outside of tennis, she said it’s very early days but she wants to learn more about the business and the stock market. She said working with a Wall Street giant on this front is helpful.

“I don’t want to make drastic decisions so quickly without knowing all the details. That’s why it’s so great that I’m working with Morgan Stanley to help me understand that you can’t just put all your coins in one stock,” said Fernández.

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