Former NFL player launches insurance agency in Greenwich

Photo of Macaela J. Bennett

When Patrick Kerney describes his new business venture, his language includes things like “competing at this for years to come.”

It is evident that the mindset of Kerney, an 11-season National Football League defensive end, has not changed much in the transition between playing for the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks and becoming an insurance agent.

Early on in Kerney’s football career, a college coach told him that succeeding in the sport is a “battle of attrition.” That lesson motivated Kerney through trying workouts and almost a dozen surgeries as he watched other talented players give up when they “weren’t willing to put in the work.”

When he saw his professional sports career coming to a close, he was already planning for what came next, and he approached it with the same resolute attitude that got him elected to two Pro Bowls. He graduated from top-ranked Columbia Business School with an MBA in finance and looked for ways he could improve the insurance agency model before opening his own this year.

In January, Kerney wrote his company’s first insurance policy. Kerney Insurance, based in Greenwich, offers lines of commercial, personal and life insurance coverage.

While the contrast between his professions — NFL player and insurance agent — may seem stark, Kerney’s interest in business is rooted firmly in experiences as a professional athlete.

“It wasn’t until my second contract (in the NFL) that I realized the stakes,” Kerney said in a recent interview. “When you’re 22, and full of testosterone, you want a financial adviser just to tell people you have a financial adviser.”

A few years into Kerney’s NFL career, it “ate at me seeing the criteria guys used to decide who to entrust their assets to,” he said. “They decided based on who the starting players used or who their agent had connected them with. I’d say, ‘None of these have anything to do with asset performance.’ ”

Kerney admits he did not begin his football career with financial acumen, but he had taken the approach: “Just because you have it, doesn’t mean you have to drive it or flaunt it.”

Then a friend recommended to him some business books including, “The Making of an American Capitalist” about Warren Buffet. That, combined with seeing some of his teammates struggle because of their financial mismanagement, “lit a fire under me,” Kerney said.

Between business school and launching Kerney Insurance, Kerney worked for the NFL as a vice president, overseeing player benefits and the creation of off-season personal finance bootcamps. Through those endeavors, Kerney hopes he has helped teach players how to manage their finances. He continues to do pro bono financial presentations for teams.

When considering opening his own business, Kerney said he wanted something he “could compete at for decades” and turn into a family business. With his wife, Kerney has four young children, meaning, “We have plenty of takeover applicants,” he said.

He also hopes Kerney Insurance will have a reputation for being more proactive and transparent than typical insurance firms.

“I want to make it a relationship-based business that’s more interested in discussing remediation rather than just premiums,” he said.

Even if his children don’t take over the business, Kerney hopes to use it as an “educational vehicle” for teaching them about finances. Modeling for his children is another reason why 10 percent of the agency’s pre-tax income will be donated to charity, split between The Rett Syndrome Research Trust and Waterboys.

Contact the writer at; Twitter @Macaela_