#LifeInsuranceMatters: Ian’s story
Ian Jeffrey, Breathe Life’s Chief Executive Officer, shares his journey into the business of life insurance and his own “about face” on the industry.
Q: How did you come to work on the business of life insurance? How did you know that founding Breathe Life was the right next step in your career?
Funny story, actually. My dad was in insurance and growing up I was adamant about NOT following his footsteps. In fact, my entrepreneurial career began at age 12 when I started my own landscaping business. Despite advice from my father about finding a steady and stable career, I’ve always been drawn to startups and the innovation and energy that powers emerging businesses.
After a successful stint in Silicon Valley, my wife and I wanted to return back to Montréal to raise our family. Working as a partner at Real Ventures, I founded a startup accelerator called FounderFuel that has been very successful at identifying and nurturing high-growth potential companies in Canada. From there I ran marketing for PasswordBox, which was acquired by Intel/McAfee, and found myself in a good position to take some time to figure out my next steps.
At this point there were a few things that I knew I wanted from my next career move. First and foremost was to find a way to have a positive impact on society. I also wanted to build a company from the ground up, and to have that company headquartered in Montréal. I connected with Diagram Ventures, a company that co-founds startups pursuing big ideas in finance and insurance. Together we spent months exploring opportunities to transform and modernize the insurance industry and my opportunity to make a difference in the world started to unfold - the opportunity to improve access to financial security products for everyone. Fortunately, JN, Seb, and Arach were at similar points in their careers and looking for their next opportunity, and thus Breathe Life was born.
Q: The theme of this year’s Life Insurance Awareness Month is “Reality Check: The Time to Buy Life Insurance is Now.” What does this theme mean to you?
Living through a pandemic certainly underscores the huge need for life insurance products and consumers are actually paying attention, which hasn’t always been the case. The adage that life insurance is sold, not bought, exists because most people don’t think about buying insurance until something happens - a milestone such as getting married or having a baby - or protecting your family during a pandemic.
I’ve also come to realize that life insurance is sold, and not bought, because it can be quite hard to purchase unless you have an advisor who can sell you the policy you need. In that sense, this theme also serves as a “reality check” for the life insurance industry. Consumer buying habits have changed and advisors don’t have the tools they need to efficiently and effectively serve them. Moreover, some insurance products are unnecessarily complicated which extends the sales cycle and increases the cost of customer acquisition.
Helping our carrier partners modernize and meet consumers on their own terms is very gratifying - and to tie back to the theme of LIAM, the time to transform is NOW.
Q: Now that you are in the business of insurance, how has your perception of the industry changed since you were a boy determined to forge a different path than your father?
As a husband and a father, my appreciation for life insurance and its contribution to my family’s financial future is paramount. I’ve also come to realize that the insurance industry is committed to its mission of protecting consumers even as they struggle to engage them. Breathe Life brings a technology-enabled solution to this challenge and we’re confident that, over time, modernization will help improve the perception of this industry. And while perceptions change, Breathe Life is accelerating access to these products, and helping ensure financial security for generations to come!