Local bucks trend of low number of female fiscal adviser

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On July 1, Scott-based financial adviser Christine Pikutis-Musuneggi was named president-elect of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors of Pennsylvania, a trade organization that focuses on legislative and regulatory advocacy issues for its 2,000 members.

When she steps up as president in July 2015, she will be only the second female to hold the top job in the statewide industry group that has existed for decades.

That’‍s no surprise, given the relatively low numbers of women who work as fee-based advisers and planners in financial services.

Only 31 percent of financial advisers are female, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics cited in a report released this year by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. The CFP Board’‍s Women’‍s Initiative conducted the study to identify reasons why women are underrepresented in the profession. Of financial planners who hold certification, only 23 percent are women, the CFP Board study said.

Among the factors contributing to what the report described as a “feminine famine in financial planning” are nonsalary compensation models that don’t appeal to women; lack of information about what it takes to be a successful planner; gender bias and discrimination; concerns about work-life balance; and few visible role models, networks and professional development programs for women in the field.

“When your income is fee- and commission-based, and if you are the breadwinner or building a practice, there will be ups and downs. And if they have dependents, that really deters a lot of women,” said Ms. Pikutis-Musuneggi.

Women are well represented in financial services jobs such as operations and recruitment, she said. “When you move from a salary to nonsalary, that’s where the gap is. You have to get over the income volatility.”

As an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned a business degree with a focus in finance and marketing, Ms. Pikutis-Musuneggi envisioned becoming a stockbroker.

“I didn’t know exactly what they did. I knew they bought, sold and traded, and I liked that side of finance.”

But after she observed how a business in her own family was handed down in unexpected ways after the owner died, she saw a career for herself as a financial adviser who could help individuals deal with insurance and succession planning issues.

Her first job was as a sales assistant for a top insurance agent at Allmerica, which later became Hanover Insurance Group.

That’s where she met her mother-in-law, Mary Grace Musuneggi, who at the time was director of financial services for Allmerica. It’s also where she met her husband, Christopher Musuneggi, who started at the firm about the same time as a trainee.

After Ms. Pikutis-Musuneggi left to work at Lincoln Financial Group in Canonsburg as a manager and financial adviser, Mary Grace Musuneggi in 2002 founded the Musuneggi Financial Group, where her son and niece are also partners and owners.

While she obtained management experience at Lincoln, Ms. Pikutis-Musuneggi found she missed the aspect of financial services she is most passionate about: working one-on-one with clients to assist them with decisions about insurance, investments, retirement, estates and business succession plans.

“I had multiple leadership roles at Lincoln Financial, but knew I really wanted to get back to my own practice,” said Ms. Pikutis-Musuneggi, 39.

Despite the family connections, her move to Musuneggi Financial two years ago wasn’t awkward, she said.

“I had a business and professional relationship with them before the personal.”

The company defies the norm in terms of women who work as financial advisers. Of nine advisers at the firm, four are women, including two who are owners.

“It’s unfortunate” more females aren’t working as financial advisers, Ms. Pikutis-Musuneggi said, “because women don’t have to be taught how to listen and be empathetic. That comes naturally.”

Besides encouraging more women to enter the profession, she hopes the state association can find ways to tap the talents of the millennial generation of workers who range from their late teens to early 30s.

Right now, the average age of members in the state association is 56.

“It takes about five years to build a business [in financial advising and planning],” she said.

“There’s no instant gratification, so millennials tend to shy away from it. But they are very outgoing and aggressive and have the right skill set. So that’s a challenge.”

At her own firm, two college interns this summer are completing hands-on projects in marketing, operations and financial planning.

“We’re giving them that exposure and hope to let them see this is an entrepreneurial job. It’s not necessarily 9 to 5 and you really have to be versed in all the different areas of [advising] such as insurance and estates. And it’s a lot about how to run a business … how to market and manage your client base.”

Another goal she has for the state association is to bring its annual conference to Pittsburgh.

“I’‍m starting to scope out locations in the city. We’ve been to Seven Springs and that’s great, but it’s not Pittsburgh.”

Joyce Gannon: jgannon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1580.

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