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2020 Women to Watch: Melanie O’Neill

Posted On: Dec. 2, 2020 12:00 AM CST

Melanie O’Neill

Melanie O’Neill
Chief underwriting officer-commercial
Liberty Specialty Markets, Liberty Mutual Insurance Group
Age: 47

Following in her father’s footsteps led Melanie O’Neill into insurance, first as a summer job and ultimately as a career.

When she started, her responsibilities included collecting client money from the brokers, but she quickly moved through the ranks and specialized in professional indemnity underwriting.

After her father’s retirement and following mergers within the sector, Ms. O’Neill went on to join Liberty Specialty Markets, a unit of Liberty Mutual Insurance Group, as a senior underwriter and later was named chief underwriting officer-commercial, succeeding her long-time mentor Alan Telford.

“I have worked with Melanie through all of her career to date within Liberty — in fact, I recruited her,” Mr. Telford said. “She has always impressed me, not only with her technical underwriting expertise but with her organizational, management and leadership skills. She is a great manager of people, showing empathy and a rare ability to resolve conflict and handle difficult situations.”

Those skills continue to serve her well amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I have only been in my current role for three months, and it has been a challenging time market-wide,” Ms. O’Neill said. 

However, thanks to her outgoing personality and empathy, she has successfully navigated team building using online communications technology, resulting in high internal engagement scores. 

One of her goals has been to ensure that all her team feels fully engaged, and she works hard to make sure no one feels isolated, Ms. O’Neill said.

“If you can get the team ethos right and have everyone working together, then additional profit will naturally follow. We can still thrive via Zoom, etc.,” she said.

On-boarding new team members in a remote working environment can be challenging, and it requires ensuring people know who to call for support, she said.

Outside of work, she and her wife, Katie, have taken on a whippet, which has helped keep them outside through lockdowns, Ms. O’Neill said. Once a keen field hockey player, she is now more likely to be found on a tennis court or golf course.

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