Set up in 1984, this year marks 40 years in operation for Laferla Group. A second-generation family business run by Mark Jr, Keith and Kevin Laferla; it has come a long way since it was first established – a trajectory that owes its success to the company’s approach to doing business.

This approach, Mark Laferla Jr says, is characterised by a relentless customer-centric focus, paired with continuous innovation. “We’re constantly refining our customer interaction methods and service delivery, making everything, from new policy transactions to claim settlements, smoother and faster. This focus, along with our continued investments in technology, has been instrumental in keeping us agile and ahead of the curve,” the joint Managing Director maintains.

Highlighting the company’s main landmarks, he points out the launch of Laferla Health Plans in May 2000. “It was a bold step by my father and his team, moving away from representing a global health insurance brand which we had introduced into Malta back in 1987 (as their first agent outside of the UK), to establishing our own health insurance products,” he explains, affirming that now, 24 years later, it is a source of immense pride to see it thriving, and establishing the Laferla brand as the go-to health insurance provider on the island.

Another significant milestone he references is Laferla’s sustained strong growth over the last decade, “driven by our commitment to innovation and exploring untapped niche markets, which has really set us apart from the competition.”

“We’re always on the lookout for fresh technologies and market opportunities that others might overlook,” he continues, delving further into Laferla’s dynamic and forward-thinking approach to growth and development.

“Our drive to innovate isn’t just about staying ahead; it’s about rewriting the rules of engagement in our business sector. When we talk about embracing cryptocurrency payments, for example, we’re not just following a trend; we’re recognising and adapting to the evolving preferences and behaviours of our customers and the global market,” Mark affirms, noting that this is just one example of how the company has adapted to new opportunities – “and the result is not only that it opened us up to a new demographic of tech-savvy clients but has also showcased our ability to securely navigate and implement emerging financial technologies, with all the safeguards necessary.”

Linked to this, the Managing Director reveals an exciting development which will be coming to fruition in the coming months: Laferla’s new customer online portal, which represents another leap towards digital excellence. “Through our newly enhanced portal, our clients can manage their policies, take out new quotes and secure cover, as well as file claims, hence providing a seamless and user-friendly experience that sets the standard in the market,” he explains.

But perhaps what truly distinguishes the company from its competitors, Mark believes, is its in-house innovation drive, which he calls their ‘innovation hub’.  

“We’re not afraid to experiment with AI and explore other technologies, aiming to complement and enhance our team. By automating routine tasks, we free up more time for our talented professionals to focus on what they do best: providing personalised service to our clients. We use technology to allow for more human interaction and personalisation, not less. What we’re aiming to automate is the back-end work, and making the most of how technology can help us streamline processes, safeguarding against various risks, and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements,” he states.

In essence, Mark maintains, this forward-thinking approach isn’t just about adopting new technologies. It’s about creating a culture of innovation, where every challenge is seen as an opportunity to improve, refine, and innovate.

Another major development Laferla is involved with, and which has just launched to the public, is telemedicine platform, Digimed. “We feel that this new healthcare tool is going to revolutionise an element of the healthcare industry and ties in very nicely with our insurance offering too, creating an ecosystem for customers and providers to be able to interact with ease,” Mark says, hinting at several other exciting projects in the pipeline with the same concept of creating an ‘ecosystem’, which will also complement the insurance brand.

Picking his brain about the current trends in the insurance industry, I ask where he sees the sector heading in the coming years. “We’re navigating through a market-wide correction, largely influenced by inflation and the lingering effects of global policy responses to the pandemic,” he begins, noting that these challenges, from supply chain disruptions to regulatory shifts, are reshaping the industry. “Local laws change, European laws change, and regulatory requirements are constantly developing concerning global events. Everybody’s trying to remain competitive in an environment where the rules are shifting and becoming ever more onerous,” Mark continues, admitting that it’s not easy to innovate with increasing levels of compliance that are being demanded of companies.

“It’s not easy to do business with ease when you’ve got restrictive approaches to business from banking partners for instance, as well as with the regulators because rules are often inflexible. Unfortunately, the clients end up suffering the brunt of it, as this all translates to insurance providers’ costs increasing and therefore, the frequent result is an increase in bureaucracy and, ultimately, premiums charged to the end clients,” he maintains, adding that all of these factors combined with the general drive towards digitalisation and finding efficient solutions while grappling with increased compliance demands, difficulty in finding a skilled workforce and external influences is what is keeping the industry busy.

Still, the Managing Director firmly believes that opportunities always lie within such challenges. “We look at the challenges and pain points which our customers are facing and take inspiration to find a solution to these issues. Our goal is to address these and to be ahead of the curve in terms of ‘ease of doing business’ – both from our customer’s point of view, as well as our internal operations,” he says.

And while it may be easier to go with the status quo rather than take what he describes as the difficult path, Mark believes that the rewards will be reaped by those who are not afraid to jump into the challenges and find the best solutions first. “Whether we are speaking about our insurance operation or the telemedicine ecosystem, as well as our new projects that are still under wraps – ultimately, this is the aim of the game: to take the opportunities that lie within each challenge.” And as Laferla celebrates its 40th anniversary, the team will be proudly waving this flag and celebrating the successes over the past four decades. Looking ahead, “I see our team continuing to grow. I see the client base continuing to grow. And by the end of the year, we will have launched a couple of exciting new ventures which will start to redefine the brand as people know it, and hopefully lay the groundwork for international expansion over the coming months and years,” Mark smiles.

This interview forms part of the Companies to Watch in 2024, a business serialisation of BusinessNow.mt, Malta’s fastest-growing, cutting-edge business news portal, aimed at companies achieving their goals, marking important milestones, or planning to announce major business news.

Want to know more? Please drop us a line at info@BusinessNow.mt

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