Southern California native Chris Jarvis never intended to pursue a career in the insurance industry. “After college, I came back home and thought I was gonna be a cop,” he says. “But I needed a job while I was trying to get into the police academy and I ended up landing at Progressive Insurance. At the time, no one knew what it was — I told my mom and she thought I was working for a soup company!”
Many years, a few companies, and countless job titles later, Jarvis is the Director of Specialized Handling at Metromile, leading a team of employees dedicated to keeping costs low and customers happy. Read on for insight into Jarvis’s career journey and why his current job brings him so much joy.
You didn’t mean to go into insurance — what happened when you started your first job in the industry?
I started at Progressive and I thought, ‘I’m only gonna do this for a couple of months and then go to the police academy.’ As it turns out, it grew on me. It provided me with everything I thought I wanted about law enforcement without all the danger. It made my mom quite happy that I wasn’t going to be a police officer!
People who work in SIUs — special investigative units — are essentially detectives. Most states require insurance companies to have special investigators (SIs), and what they do is prevent insurance companies from passing along the cost of fraud to consumers. Their job is to detect, investigate, and deter insurance fraud and basically keep rates from going up. It was right up my alley and it was good timing. Before I knew it, I was there for 14 years.
What was your career path?
I had every role in the claims department — I started as an adjuster, then a supervisor for a team of adjusters, then a branch manager of an entire standalone claims operation, then a manger of a state organization for fire and theft. I managed that for a number of years, until we were getting ready to start a family and my wife was not thrilled with the travel I had to do all the time. It just so happened that an SI role opened at Progressive — it ended up being the best job I’d ever had in my life. I loved it so much and I think that showed in the work, and it paved the way for my transition to Metromile.
Let’s talk about that transition! How did you end up at Metromile?
When I was managing the fire and theft group, I met one of the early employees at Metromile. One day I was sitting at my desk and he called me. He said, “hey, I’m building out the claims department — would you be interested in building out the SIU department?” It sounded interesting, but I said, “no thanks, I’ve got a good thing going here.” Then he gave me the hard sell, he said, “one day you’re going to be sitting on your couch watching a Metromile commercial and you’re going to kick yourself for not taking the opportunity.” So I joined Metromile, and man has it been great. I really can’t imagine how the last four years could have been any better. Just being able to look at how much we’ve accomplished with this product and how much better it’s gotten with time. It’s not far-fetched to think that at some point in the future, Metromile is going to be in the discussion as one of the top insurance companies in the country. There’s not a doubt in my mind that that’s the case.
What are some of the best parts of your job?
We have a really great team of dedicated, loyal, passionate people. From a developmental standpoint, it’s been way more impactful on my career coming here than if I’d stayed at Progressive. And there’s just the pure enjoyment of it — I like creating and working with groups to develop new and interesting things and we’re doing that here.
What kinds of unique opportunities has being a Metromile employee afforded you?
Here, I got the opportunity to say, “here’s what I think we should do and why,” and be able to give it a shot, and if it doesn’t work out, we’ll do it another way. It’s incredible to get that opportunity to try out new things and it’s been really rewarding to see things come to fruition. Even more, other people actually benefit from those things which is cool. We have AVA, our virtual assistant, which is our single coolest piece of technology. There’s no other carrier in the world that has something like this and here we are. If they’d had a tool like this when I started at Progressive 18 years ago, it would’ve blown my mind.
Rumor has it that you’ve made such a major impact on Metromile, the company named its risk assessment model after you.
Humbly, I admit that when I started, one of the first things I was tasked with was creating a risk assessment model — in this case, to identify claims that might be high risk and need to go to an investigator. It’s now called the Jarvis Model.
What kinds of things do you hope to see Metromile — and the car insurance industry as a whole — improve on and innovate in the future?
Man, there are so many. One of the other things that I continue to be focused on is leveraging photos. It used to be that after an accident, you’d have to hop out with a pen and paper and physical insurance card to exchange info. Nowadays in this digital age, everyone has a high-definition camera on their smartphones and can just snap pictures. That’s an underutilized piece of data that we can get a lot better at using in the claims process. I envision that sometime soon, us or someone else will get to the point where customers can get a quote on insurance just from taking pictures — of their license, four corners of their car, the license plate, etc. They could submit those and boom — that would contain almost all the info needed in order to get a quote.
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Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist, UC Berkeley alumna, and Metromile customer.