How did you get into this industry and what is your favorite/most rewarding part of it?
Mark Jr: We were born into the insurance industry as it’s a family business. We are essentially the third generation to be involved in the industry, with our grandfather having been involved in another insurance venture before our father founded the Laferla brand. Over the past few years, Keith and myself have worked on and even created multiple niche areas, which both of us have developed quite nicely.
Keith: Mark and myself dedicate most of our time towards relationship-building with High Net Worth and Ultra High Net Worth clients, as well as product development aimed at this market. What makes this so appealing, is that you meet so many fascinating people, and come across so many interesting industries, markets and risks to be insured, as well as naturally learning a great deal from experienced and highly esteemed entrepreneurs from around the globe. This, coupled with the fact that we are very entrepreneurial ourselves, has also spurred us to get involved in other segments over the years, both insurance-related and not.
Why did you decide to follow in your father’s footsteps?
K: Our father always had a dream of building a family-run business, so we were effectively groomed for this position since we were toddlers. He always gave us the opportunity to seek other opportunities if we preferred to do so. However, after being exposed to the insurance industry whilst working for other insurance organisations until we obtained our academic degrees, Mark and I both felt that we had a love for the industry, amongst other personal passions of course. It was something that we were naturally good at, and we just feel that we have an intuitive grasp of the industry.
What are some of the difficulties you face in this industry and how do you overcome them?
M: We prefer to speak about solutions rather than difficulties. Using a classic metaphor, our clients and partners often only see the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our work. Beneath that is usually a great deal of red tape, regulation, and other factors such as risk appetite from reinsurers’ end. The insurance industry is very complex; however, our clients rarely hear of the struggles we sometimes go through in order to offer the right solutions.
What have you learnt working in this industry and how has this affected your approach to business?
K: Besides the obvious technical knowledge that grows on a daily basis, one thing that I definitely have learnt is that you need to be very much on the ball to look out for and respond to new opportunities – “the early bird catches the worm”, as they say. For example, when the Malta Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Programme came about (better known as the ‘Malta Individual Investor Programme’ or ‘MIIP’), we immediately understood that the programme included a particular insurance requirement and within a couple of days, we had created a product tailored specifically to those needs. If you are not so quick and flexible with regards to these kinds of opportunities, you’re probably going to miss out, and that is the differentiating factor between a forward-thinking insurance provider and, what I would call, a traditional insurance provider.
M: We’ve also been lucky enough to learn about new industries, new cultures, new backgrounds, and today we also regularly encounter all kinds of requests and scenarios by these clients. You learn about how challenging and demanding certain situations may be which naturally allows you to grow professionally by adapting, learning and trying to provide the solution for these clients. This has allowed us to branch out to new industries and new areas with partners and provide an even more comprehensive solution to our clients whether it is for insurance needs, whether it is to manage their corporate jet, whether it is to purchase or manage their new yacht, or whether it is also involving any other corporate or personal requirements within our market or markets that we are familiar with. A lot of these partners and clients have even become friends over the years.
How do you put your personal beliefs into your work ethic and how has it manifested itself? What makes a good owner/director? What values do you bring to the company?
M: In our case, it’s our name on the wall. We are one and the same – the family is the company; the company is the family. There are no bounds to the dedication. The ethics by which we work are unquestionable because at the end of the day it is not only our professional reputation at stake, but our personal reputation. The brand is our family name and we instill the four brand values of experience, trust, promptness and fairness within the corporate structure. This helps us ensure that the same values are present within our employees’ work ethic.
K: Our clients know that their insurance provider understands what they need, understands them, and is in it for the long haul. We are not only looking out for our own reputation but for their needs, and our portfolio of ever-growing clients and friends is testament to this.
How do you think you carved a niche as the insurance provider specialists go to people for High Net Worth Individual (HNWI) clients? What makes you the go-to brothers for insurance services for HNWI?
K: Besides being quick to react, as we have already spoken about, we are very understanding of the fact that HNWIs often have different kinds of requirements and we always go the extra mile to try to satisfy their needs. These can range from anything such as amending a standard insurance policy to meeting a client at 7am, documents in hand, when they have just landed in Malta on a private jet, because they have a whole day full of meetings and everything needs to move like clockwork for them. Traditionally, companies would not go out of their way to do this, and don’t necessarily understand the difference that this makes to such clients.
M: This helps us to make the client feel more comfortable to work with us and build a relationship with us, because they know that they don’t need to explain or teach somebody something new as we are already familiar with their requirements, needs and expectations. Even as a second-generation team, we still hold true to the original values of the company which are primarily based on customer service. What we did when we joined the company was make sure that customer service remains a priority, and we are in a constant state of evolution and progression, to see how we can continue to improve the service that we offer to our customers.
What are your individual strengths and specialties and how do you effectively combine these to create a well-rounded offering?
M: Both of us have a very good knack at building strong relationships with working partners, clients and anybody involved in managing the client’s needs. Then, each of us have our area of expertise. We work very well in sync, not just from an insurance point of view and a specialization in areas within the insurance offerings, but also in other areas of operation through other companies we are involved in, such as aviation, aircraft management, yachting management, yacht and property procurement, technology development and so on. Using our combined know-how with these markets and clients as well as our extensive network of contacts, we were able to tap into niche sectors and to give the best all-round opportunities to our clients.
Tell us about some of your goals and personal mission(s) going forward?
M: The goals are to continue to expand particularly in the international sectors in various industries, which we are doing very actively. We are constantly and proactively looking at opportunities, whilst maintaining the brand values of the group.
K: One of our goals is to take our excellent relationship that we hold with many HNWIs and experienced entrepreneurs to a new level. We can do this by bringing these people together to create new projects and ventures – and the sky really is the limit in this respect. With thousands of international HWNIs on our books, one can only imagine what great things can be done if some of them come together to form new ideas.
How do you define success?
M: Success is not necessarily measured in terms of financials but in many cases, more rewardingly, by means of the number of friends, contacts and partners that we’ve built in the network all over the world, through the services we provide to them or for their clients.
K: Obviously, there is the financial reward, there is the feeling of achievement that Mark mentioned, of either building your network or being able to offer a new product or service, which was not previously available. There is also the feeling of enjoying what you do, and this is a key part of being successful. For me, it is enjoying what you’re doing because as the saying goes, if you enjoy what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life. You will wake up motivated, eager to go, eager to do business, and that’s something that really drives you every day.
To find out more about Keith and Mark Jr. and their work at Laferla, visit their website or connect with them:
Laferla Insurance Agency Ltd. is enrolled under the Insurance Distribution Act, Cap 487 to act as an Insurance Agent for MAPFRE Middlesea p.l.c. (MMS). MMS is authorised by the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) under the Insurance Business Act, Cap 403 of the Laws of Malta. Both entities are regulated by the MFSA.