KNOW Brian Jirak, picking the winners

Posted by Creative and Communications on 09.29.2017
Creative and Communications


We’re now adding to our portfolio of KNOW Arrowhead featured employees. Meet Brian Jirak, chief product officer for our new Core Commercial Program. Do you know someone who would make a great KNOW spotlight? Let us know!

By day, Brian Jirak works diligently to compile a winning program of insurance coverage for small businesses. In his spare time, he compiles winning teams for Fantasy Football – and he’s won four championships so far.

“It all started 19 years ago when I was working in our Atlanta office. All of our territory managers, who were actuarial wannabes at heart, got together to start a fantasy league. Everyone thought they could develop the best model,” Brian recalls. It was game on.

The breakthrough, Brian says, came when he turned his attention away from the players to the numbers themselves. “The players change, but the number of touchdown passes thrown or rushing yards or field goals made doesn’t really change much from year-to-year,” he explained. Finding players that fit the stats, instead of just lining up your players is crucial.

“And the process doesn’t end once you pick your team,” he added. “You need to be constantly tweaking and finding emerging talent before everyone else – that’s key throughout the season.”

How do you select a winning team?

So of course we asked him for insider tips.

First, he said, the team with the superstar player seldom wins. “Very rarely do I have a superstar-caliber player on my team. I stick with average-to-above-average players,” he said. “I never want Tom Brady or LeBron James. If that star player snaps an ankle or breaks an arm, you’re done for the season.”
He went on to explain, “It’s all about understanding what numbers are necessary to be the best in each category, determine whether you WANT to be the best in that category or make up the difference somewhere else. You can never have too much talent. Don’t pass up five good wide receivers so that you can fill a running back hole with average talent.

Brian said he generally studies the stats for about a month in preparation for the draft. “But the draft, then, is the easy part because all I have to do is ‘trust the model’.”

How many winning teams have you picked?

“In my main football league, I’ve been to the championship game in six of the past 10 years, winning four championships.

“I’ve since applied the algorithms to our baseball league and hope to be playing in my third consecutive championship, having split the past two.” Baseball is actually easier, Brian thinks, because there are more players and more statistical categories to choose from.

Because you’re so good at picking winners, do any office pools exclude you?

“I believe I have a reputation for working the numbers and knowing which levers to push. As far as office pools, wouldn’t gambling at work be illegal?” he joked.

Any other tips for us?

“Don’t be afraid to try something new. One year I tried to model what would happen if I drafted all players with the last name of Williams. Don’t assume all plans will get to the deployment stage. Try a multitude of strategies behind the scenes to determine what the expected impact would be prior to running it out on to the field.”

A little more about Brian

Brian joined Arrowhead in 2012 as part of the Zurich Automotive Aftermarket Program lift-out, and has been working in our Overland Park, Kansas office as senior VP of underwriting and operations for Aftermarket. Now as chief product officer, he’s responsible for the development, deployment and maintenance of the brand-new Core Commercial product portfolio.

“We’re working on a portfolio overhaul and are in the process of rewriting and refiling these QBE products on a 50-state basis, plus developing a new online platform to support it,” he explained. “We wrote the entire new portfolio of products – refreshed these QBE products, and we’re adding new enhancements such as Small Business Elite endorsements, a series of industry-specific packages that are tailored to restaurants, for instance.”