Employee Spotlight – Cultures are built around people like Katie O’Neil

Few people start their insurance careers at age 16. Katie O’Neil, Territory Sales Manager for Florida’s west coast and tri-county area, took advantage of a high school training program and has been passionate about the business ever since. She was the youngest student in her licensing class and was fully licensed at age 18, beginning a 25-year career on the agency side.

Katie loved her time working in the agency world, but also had a desire to learn the business from the carrier side. After her children were grown, she took advantage of an opportunity that helped expand her insurance knowledge and allowed her to travel, which she was not able do with young children at home. She enjoyed the carrier side and building relationships with agents. And thanks to her long career as an agent, she easily developed many strong and trusting relationships.

In 2018, Katie began to hear about a new competitor in the Florida coastal market. Velocity Risk Underwriters was young and eager to grow quickly. The current territory sales manager, Jose de Diego had been promoted and was looking for his replacement. He asked several agents for references, and Katie’s name was mentioned multiple times.  “After our initial conversation,” de Diego reflects, “I knew Katie was who I wanted to not only fill my vacancy but make it better. Then Katie showed one of her strongest qualities, loyalty. She felt an allegiance to her prior carrier. It took some convincing, but after several conversations, Katie decided to join Velocity. Make no mistake Velocity was the true winner in this circumstance.”

One of the reasons Katie made the decision to accept the job with Velocity was that it is not a typical MGA. It is capitalized by Nephila, a reinsurer and one of the biggest players in the ILS (Insurance Linked Securities) market. Learning more about reinsurance was only the beginning of Katie’s education. Velocity values employees’ opinions, especially when they can share what they know from the agent’s viewpoint. Katie was surprised when leadership was interested in her view. She feels she has a seat at the table, and enjoys helping with product, territory and rate decisions. She understands how changes can affect both the agents and the company in the long run.

She has also enjoyed learning more about portfolio metrics and how and why difficult decisions may be necessary to ensure stability and success. She has found at Velocity, it isn’t just product managers and data analysts making these decisions, Katie has been able to make suggestions on the best course of action that would benefit all parties. With a well-rounded understanding, she is able to share difficult news with agents in an authentic and transparent way, which agents appreciate. She also enjoys helping agents find ways to manage their books, whether it be converting business to the new Velocity Flex™ Home program or possibly even a competitor. She always wants what is best for both the agents and the company.

Another reason Katie is so impressed with Velocity is its culture and how it cares for its employees. After Katie lost her infant granddaughter due to health complications, Velocity made sure she had the time she needed to support her daughter and manage her grief. Velocity also made a donation to the hospital that cared for the baby. Katie was so appreciative of the support and the focus on family.

Everyone that works with Katie is equally impressed with her and her work ethic. Allison Sharpe, Senior Territory Sales Manager agrees. “Katie is one of the best team players I have ever had the honor to work with in my 20 plus years in the insurance industry,” according to Sharpe. “She is determined, honest and humble. Katie brings a great deal of experience and creativity to her work. She is the perfect ambassador to represent Velocity, and truly offers the utmost commitment to her customers. If I was her competitor, I would be exhausted trying to keep up!”

Sales Trainer, Sherry Moor considers Katie a friend. “Not only does Katie have a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the Florida marketplace, she is fun to work with and can always make me laugh. If I have a question or need advice on an idea, I can count on her to give me valuable, honest feedback.  She is always willing to volunteer whenever and wherever needed. When Velocity needed help in Texas, she took on the added responsibility without complaint. Katie is a true team player, and I am a better person for working with her.”

In 2020 all Velocity employees became remote employees due to COVID-19, but Katie has always worked remotely, which means that networking with her peers is sometimes a challenge. One of her favorite memories was at the end of a week-long trip to Nashville in 2018 that focused on building relationships with agents. The week ended with the company’s holiday party where Katie made new friends and built strong relationships with peers from across the organization. She looks forward to the day the company can again bring the now 130 employees together to celebrate company success and life-long friendships.

When Katie isn’t focused on insurance, her passion is health and wellness. She is a certified holistic health coach and is always searching for the next best (and simple!) plant-based recipes. She loves taking long walks on the beach with her family and her dog in her hometown of Tampa, Florida.