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Leylah Fernandez urges athletes to become financially literate

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Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada returns a backhand against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia during their singles first round match in the 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 ranked among the top tennis players in the world. She’s won two Women’s Tennis Association titles and was a U.S. Open finalist in 2021.

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

This week, Fernandez was in New York as Morgan Stanley and the WTA announced a new, multi-year global partnership. The program fosters inclusivity and expands access to the game of tennis. In addition, the partnership will include financial literacy and planning resources for players.

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

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

“We’re focused on tennis our whole lives. That’s the only thing that we know, but it’s not something we can always depend on. I want to have that stability, that thought that everything is going to be all right and we need to have those resources,” she said.

Given her link to Morgan Stanley, Fernandez said she feels an added responsibility to not only ask financial questions for her own good, but to encourage others on tour to have that same confidence as well.

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

Morgan Stanley was drawn to Fernandez’s leadership example.

“She is a role model that people can see themselves in. She 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 01, 2023 in New York City.

Mike Coppola | Getty Images

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

“In the beginning I was afraid to ask questions because I was worried it was dumb, or way too simple, but asking questions is the most important thing. I need to be financially stable in life after tennis, so being able to participate has opened my eyes and mind to a new world,” she told CNBC.

While traveling all over the world for tennis tournaments and climbing to a career-high ranking of 13 last summer, Fernandez, who hails from Canada, is making her education a priority. She is majoring in business at Indiana University East, which has a partnership with the WTA, along with the Women’s Tennis Benefits Association, to allow players to gain baccalaureate degrees online while competing on tour.

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

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

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