Meet Chris O'Neill, Chairman
When Chris O’Neill reflects on his term as president of Big I Southern New Jersey (then Independent Insurance Agents of Camden-Gloucester Counties) , a position which he held twenty-two years ago, he recalls the message he shared with the membership during his outgoing speech. He shared what it meant to be a part of the organization, noting “I could not even begin to explain how beneficial it has been. The relationships, contacts and education have personally helped me in the insurance industry.”
Now, in 2022, as O’Neill begins his term as the Chairman of Big I New Jersey, his sentiments towards membership and activism in the association remain the same.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Chris to learn a little more about his involvement and the things that are most important to him. Here’s what he had to say.
How did you begin your career in insurance?
When I was younger, I was working in the heavy commercial construction field. At the time, my father owned a small real estate and insurance agency in Southern New Jersey. For me, it looked like an opportunity to do something different, so I joined the agency. Then in 1994, I became a member of IIA of Camden and Gloucester Counties, where I would then go onto be president a few years later.
How has your involvement with Big I New Jersey impacted your career?
The greatest impact on my career has been the business relationships and friendships that I have made by being a member of the Big I. The resources that I have access to have helped my success. Recently, I had the opportunity to attend my first Big I National meeting in Niagara Falls, N.Y. and it was exciting to see the innerworkings of how the association runs.
What do you see as the greatest opportunity for our industry over the next few years?
Presently, independent agents have the majority of the market share in commercial lines, but not the personal lines market. I think that’s where our opportunity is. We need to increase our personal lines market share against the direct writers.
When you think of the ‘recipe for success’ what do are the best agency doing that may be different or overlooked from others?
The best agencies work together as a team. That reliance upon one another and collaboration is what makes them most successful.
As our industry looks to the next generation of leaders, what would you share with young agents as they start their careers?
Being involved in the Big I as a young agent helps get you in front of other agents so you can discuss, and hopefully resolve, some of the industry problems that you are experiencing.
Tell us a little bit about yourself outside of the Big I and insurance.
I am a past president of LeTip of Cherry Hill, a business networking group in Southern New Jersey. I coached girl’s travel softball and was a board member for the Voorhees Girls Softball Association. I enjoy spending my time at the gym, doing small projects around the house, and golfing even though I can’t seem to break 100 (but it doesn’t stop me from playing). One interesting fact that most people don’t know is that I attended Valley Forge Military Academy for a year as a post-graduate between high school and college. From there I went on to play college football at Glassboro State College (now Rowan).
What is the best piece of professional advice you've ever received?
You can’t sit behind a desk and expect new business to come to you. You need to get involved in business networking groups and community organizations.