When she was a new underwriter, Kelly Killimett was assigned to make her first marketing trip in the Philadelphia area. So she spent a week poring over maps and driving around the suburbs for a dozen meetings to make business connections. But when she called the office to check in at the end of the week, she learned her region had been changed from the Northeast to the Midwest.
“I spent the entire trip marketing for someone else,” she recalls, laughing about the hours she had invested trying to build client relationships.
That lesson in adapting to change stuck with her.
“Change is inevitable and always happening, so you might as well embrace it,” says Killimett, now vice president, head of environmental at Colony Specialty. “With change comes opportunity. I’ve worked in the Midwest since then and have developed great relationships.”
The most exciting thing in the world
Born in Toledo, Ohio, Killimett spent her early childhood in upstate New York. Her family moved to a suburb of Atlanta when she was 12. She attended the University of Georgia and planned to pursue a career in pharmacy, but a college chemistry course convinced her to consider other options. She decided to study business instead and declared her major after taking her first risk management and insurance class.
“The professor was great,” she says. “He had a way of making insurance seem like the most exciting thing in the world.”
Competition, variety and a penchant for problem solving
In her first job as an account manager for a retail broker, Killimett handled all commercial lines, learning about contract binding systems for small businesses, working on large and small accounts in general liability, property, inland marine and workers’ compensation lines.
“Looking back, it was probably the best thing for me,” she says of the opportunity to learn broadly about the insurance industry.
Her move into underwriting gave Killimett her first experience in writing environmental policies, something she welcomed as a chance to specialize while applying her skill set.
“I like solving problems, which is why underwriting is such a good fit for me,” Killimett says.
Killimett joined Colony Specialty in 2012 as assistant vice president of environmental underwriting. She was promoted to vice president of environmental underwriting in 2014 and moved into her current role in 2017.
“The most challenging thing right now is the amount of competition we have,” she says. “We have more than 40 competitors in the environmental space and new entrants all the time.”
Killimett enjoys the variety each day brings.
“I love that every day is different,” she says. “Sometimes I will roll up my sleeves and underwrite, and other times I’m out visiting with clients and marketing and getting to know people. Other times I’ve got my manager hat on, and I’m mentoring people and working on the strategic plan of the department.”
Throughout Killimett’s career, Georgia has remained her home, and she enjoys spending time outside of work with her family, on the tennis court and working out.
Advice for new underwriters and managers
Killimett encourages managers to be attuned to personalities on their teams so they can successfully pair up underwriters and brokers to optimize their chances for a successful, long-term relationship.
She urges new underwriters to be patient and ask lots of questions.
“There are a lot of avenues you can go down in this industry,” she says. “You can make as much of a career as you want to, but it is hard work. A lot of people come in and they want to move up as quickly they can. You have to be patient, learn, work hard, ask questions and do a good job.”