About The Episodes
This episode of Business Transformation - Insurance Edition features Michael Malfa, CEO and Co-Founder of Boardwalk Insurance. Michael shares the story of how he co-founded Boardwalk Insurance to fill customers’ needs for a better experience and, at the same time, be a pioneer of digital transformation in the insurance industry.
The episode also covers topics such as advice for improving customer experience, fun in the office, inspiring books, and upcoming initiatives. It’s a lot to unpack so make sure to tune in until the end of this latest episode of Business Transformation.
WORDS TO TRANSFORM YOUR BUSINESS
MICHAEL: THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE PROBLEM
“I began to encounter this reoccurring problem that was a reoccurring theme or problem, customers were looking for better service, better service experience. And as a broker, I didn't really have the tools to deliver that experience, like my time and reach were limited. I can only get to so many clients in a day, so that was very challenging, so my partner and I started to research how technology could fill this void.”
MICHAEL: THE DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
“Things really hit home when COVID arose. I'm sure you have experience as well like the digital way of doing business had become the new norm, and previously it wasn't as heavily adopted, especially in the insurance industry, some other industries had adopted it sooner and taken on more of a technology-first approach, but insurance was just starting this digital transformation.”
Connect with our guests
Episode 5 - Michael Malfa
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: Hello everyone. Welcome to Business Transformation with FBSPL Insurance Edition. On today's episode, we are joined by Michael Malfa, the CEO and co-founder of Boardwalk. Michael has been part of the insurance industry for over decade specializing in commercial property and casualty insurance. He's also chartered insurance professional with the Insurance Institute of Canada and has participated in various insure incubators and accelerators with the goal of revolutionizing the agency model and transaction process. Aside from his professional life, Michael is an EVI health enthusiast, always trying to squeeze in a workout whenever. He's also a big fan of Formula One. Yeah, don't miss that. He's a big fan of Formula One. Rooting for Ferrari by default, but always cheering for an underdog story when he's not working or working out or watching Formula One. Michael enjoys Belgian cigars, kaki and fine wine, showcasing his appreciation for the fire things in the. With a Yen family and a growing business. He finds balancing it all to be like a taro, uh, walking a tatro. Uh, Michael is uh, a liberal and doesn't have any favorites, but he has enjoyed Rus like Shohan Redemption, good fellas, as well as books such as Adam Habits and Extreme Ownership. We are excited to have Michael on our show today to discuss his experiences and insights in the insurance industry. Hi Michael. Welcome to. Podcast. Wow. KB what an introduction. I, I wish you could introduce me every time I came onto a podcast.
Michael Malfa: Thank you for having me. I'm excited to, to join you today.
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: Same here. Same here. So, let's, uh, roll out, uh, an tell us a bit about your background and how you got started in the insurance industry.
Michael Malfa: Yeah. So I started, uh, quite early on in the insurance industry actually, right out of college. I, I, I jumped into the career, the insurance industry, not by, not by choice. Uh, I was actually, uh, I was pursued by by a friend of mine who was in insurance. I don't think any of us plan to get into insurance, right? Early on, we all have big dreams and aspir. Unfortunately, insurance isn't necessarily always at the top of the list. Right. But, uh, this individual is very persistent and, uh, I turned them down a couple times, but they just kept persisting. And eventually, uh, I decided to give it a try. Uh, you know, I tried it out and the first, my first job in insurance was for direct writer. Um, the company was, was a, it was a Fairfax financial company and they had a really great training program. It was an extensive training program where they would send us, Uh, you know, for, for two weeks at a time, on and off over several months. Um, anyhow, the training was excellent and after about a year into the business, I started to gain some traction and I started taking a, a real interest in the industry and haven't looked back since then.
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: Wow. Amazing. to that friend,
Michael Malfa: Yeah, exactly. If it wasn't for them, uh, I don't think we'd be sitting here.
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: Right. So that's how you started with the industry, but what inspired you to co-found Boardwalk Insurance and what sets your company apart from the other providers?
Michael Malfa: Yeah, no, that's, that's a great question. Um, I guess I, after years and years on the distribution side, uh, and, you know, I was growing a commercial book of business. I began to encounter this, this reoccurrent. Uh, problem. There was a reoccurring theme or problem. Customers were looking for better service, uh, better service experience. And as a broker, I didn't really have the tools to deliver, uh, that experience. Like my time and reach was limited. I could only get to so many clients in a day. Uh, so, so there that was very challenging. So my partner and I started to, you know, research how technology could fill this void. Things really hit home when, when Covid a. I'm sure you know, you experience as well, like the digital way of doing business had become the new norm. And when previously, you know, it, it wasn't as heavily adopted, especially in the insurance industry. Uh, you know, some other industries had adopted sooner and taken on more of, uh, more of a technology first approach. But insurance was, was just starting this, this digital transformation. So it was still early on. So my, my co-founder Andrew and I, we saw an opportunity. Uh, and after really lots of, lots of planning, lots of sleepless nights, lots of, uh, scribbled on napkins and extended stays at, uh, uh, cafes, Starbucks in particular, lots of Starbucks visits and a g a Gdrive full of documents. We, we decided, you know, to finally pursue it and, uh, we launched Boardwalk Insurance in March of 2020.
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: Wow. You know, Starbucks might not know that, but a lot of businesses have started from there.
Michael Malfa: Yeah, absolutely. You know…
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: They should have something like a startup corner in their cafes. .
Michael Malfa: It's a great idea Kb, you know, it really fosters that creativity when you're sitting there, you know, in that hustle and bustle, a busy environment. You hear that, that noise, you have a coffee it, it is a very creative atmosphere. Believe it or not.
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: Absolutely. Absolutely. So we talked about technology a bit. I understand that insurance started, uh, the, the journey a little late, uh, with the, the, the tech changes. But how, how has technology impacted the insurance industry in recent years, and how is Boardwalk Insurance adapting to these change?
Michael Malfa: Yeah. So I think, um, you know, like you said, uh, like we mentioned, they were, they were a little bit late to commence their, uh, their pursuit in, in the techno technological space. But insurers, I don't want to discount it, insurers do realize the importance of technology, you know, and they're trying to embed it in, uh, in what all their future endeavors and what they're doing now. The issue is, You know, they have to transition off very outdated legacy systems. You know, these systems are very deep-rooted into their processes and procedures and their, their training manuals. So you could imagine these large insurers having to uproot all of their, you know, their processes and training and technology to facilitate these new tools that are coming into the marketplace. Not to mention like all the data that they have, you know, there's, there's policy data, there's client data that's being housed in these legacy systems. So, you know, they have to migrate all that [00:07:00] information over to any new SaaS products they're looking at. And that's been happening here in Canada with, uh, the implement of Guidewire. A lot of insurers are transitioning over to Guidewire, but it's been. A very slow and difficult process for the insurers. We've, we've seen it, we've seen the pain they've been going through, and a lot of the employees are so used to, you know, operating with their traditional technology. Right, right. You know, they're not so keen to adapt to these new ways and they're not, they're not adopting the technology or the new processes as well as some of these large insurance companies had hoped. So it's, uh, it's definitely a c. Now with, with Boardwalk, we're, we're a startup. We're a startup. We're small, we're agile. You know, we look for every opportunity to embed technology, uh, in what we do to make, to make it better than before. And this philosophy has existed from the beginning since we started, and it's now become part of our culture. All our team is on board with it. They're passionate about technology, they're excited whenever we can leverage it to do things better. And, uh, that's Essent. Uh, like I said, it's, it's our culture now. It's, it's embedded in everything we do.
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: Right, right. And, and being agile. I think it's, it's the key. If, if you're not open to changes, if you're not adapting or adopting, I think you are inep. You are, you are, you're leaving behind. Yeah. You, you are. No more in the game for a long time.
Michael Malfa: Yeah, Moss. Moss doesn't grow on a rolling stone, as they say, and we, we all can give many examples, not to name any names, but many examples of companies that failed to adopt, you know, and wow. And you're, you're right, they got left behind.
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: Absolutely.
Michael Malfa: Poor, poor blockbuster, you know, , brim. It just, it goes on and on.
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: Yeah, it's, it's a long list. So we gather that, you know, boardwalk Insurance has a reputation for providing exceptional customer service. Can you tell us a bit more about how your team works with clients you provide customized or personalized, uh, solutions, and how do you keep your clients happy in a way?
Michael Malfa: Yeah, so, so I guess, uh, like we're in commercial insurance, so in insurance in general, we're, we're in an industry that. Uh, an intangible product, you know, a product that some customers may never even use. So customer service is sometimes the only variable that we're assessed on. That's the only area we, we sometimes get the op opportunity to whoa. Customers on or to wow. Customers on. Sorry. So a another thing is we're dealing with. Small to medium sized business owners. So, you know, they're running a business. Everything is, is, uh, time sensitive. It's, we're always working with deadlines and, you know, giving that, having that ability to be accessible and provide prompt service is critical, uh, in, in our business. Um, so, so I guess your, your second part of the question was, uh, how we're delivering that exceptional experience, Katie? Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So I, I would say that it's a combination of things. Uh, it's a combination of, of training, uh, processes and the embedding of technology into it. So, we'll, we'll try to automate as much as we can on the tech side. You know, we have a, a very robust CRM system and a backend policy management system, so we'll use as much as we can of the technology to, you know, to allow our team to be aware of every single you. Necessary touchpoint with a customer. You know, this, we have reminder systems set up. We have, uh, we have touchpoints automated with the client. Uh, we have checkers going on in the background, checking certain things when, when a policy's changed or when a client changes. So we use that technology to help us stay on top of, stay ahead of the curve. And then we just leverage, I guess I would say the human element, right? Cause at the end of the day, we can lose sight of that people still want to talk to a, to a human in many cases, and they need the, in our industry, they need the advice, the service and the expertise of someone that understands their business and understands, you know, how to protect their business using, uh, products in the marketplace. So we try to really have a nice blend of both using the technology to enhance our staff, to be able to deliver that human element better, more efficiently.
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: Yeah, I think human element is always the prime requirement. Uh, you know, empathy because, uh, I, as a user, I hate IVRs and chat bots. Yeah. Because at a certain point I feel like I need someone who I can talk to, who can understand my problem and. Even if the solution is not there, at least I would feel a little satisfied that someone is listening to me. So, uh, yeah, human is always a top priority, so thanks for that. Uh, and what advice would you give to other companies looking to improve their customer experience?
Michael Malfa: Yeah, absolutely. And, and just, uh, yeah. You know, I want to just add to that as. You know, the backend process, like there's a lot of backend processes and I know you're very familiar with this. Uhhuh, . Those don't necessarily add immediate value to the customer, right? So we don't want to tie up our staff with a, a lot of heavy backend lifting. Like if we can, if we can alleviate that burden from them so they could focus more on those customer touchpoints and delivering that, you know, that that customer relationship experience, that's what we're always trying to. Um, and, and then now back to your question. Yeah. The advice I give, uh, that I would give is just make sure you're utilizing number one, the tools that are available. Uh, a lot of the CRMs now have tons of tools for, you know, service tickets, monitoring, uh, your, your SLAs, your, your service LE level, uh, you know, agree. also, uh, KPIs, like, like we, we set up KPIs for our service team. So when our service team's being trained, you know, they're aware of our service level agreements, how long it takes to fulfill certain requests, and they're aware of how we're assessing, you know, their, their performance. There. There's key performance indicators that we've outlined, and then we use the tools out in the market. To a assess these, like how long a ticket it takes for an average ticket to be resolved. You know, the triage process, how when it gets triaged, how it gets triaged. So again, that comes down to training processes, manuals, and uh, and technology.
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: Oh hell, let's talk some fun. So what's the most unusual item in your office?
Michael Malfa: Unusual item. Yeah, there's a couple. Okay, so , one of 'em is pretty funny. We have, uh, we have battle bots in our office. Oh, wow. . And they're, they're little romo control robots that, uh, that our staff can control and they fight with each other. So whenever there's a disagreement, you know, they take it out in the ring, they get their battle bots, and they start, and they, they hash it out with their robots.
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: I thought, this is so cool.
Michael Malfa: Yeah, it's fun. It's so much fun. And also, uh, I got it on a trip when we were in, uh, a trip to New York. Wow. Um, there's that, there's that large toy store in New York. The name is not coming to me, but we, we, we, they have every single toy you can ever imagine and it does bring out the big kid in you. We also have a a, a Tibetan gong, like a real Tibetan gong that our sales. Hits when they make a sales. Whenever a sale's made, they hit this gong and the whole office celebrates with it. Well, that's pretty fun too.
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: Oh, the, the, we have something similar. So we do not have the phone, but we have those chiming bell
Michael Malfa: Oh, nice.
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: In every workstation or lab. So why we, how we use this is like, you know, after every hour or so of work, we do two or three minutes of fun thing because, uh, you know, we don't want to be mono. And, uh, and the, the science says that if, if we are not taking. Short breaks after 60 minutes, 90 minutes, then you are not as attentive as you should be.So we keep on the, it, it can be just relaxing, it can be just singing or whatever. But yeah, we, we, we knock out the bill and everyone is like having fun at that time. So Gong is amazing. I, I, I should have it implemented in my sales team.
Michael Malfa: Yeah. And I love that idea too. I've read that you're right, it's proven after 60 or 90 minutes. If, if you don't take a break, you're not as, Uh, even for mental health, it's important, right? So I'm definitely gonna take that one and, uh, implement it cuz you, you know, after long days in the office, you do start to burn out. You lose the creative juice right after so many hours of just staring at that monitor.
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: Fantastic. So sure and then, uh, uh, uh, there, we just understand you are, you know, enjoy reading and. So what is the most inspiring book you have ever read at? Uh, why did you have such an, why did it have such an impact?
Michael Malfa: Yeah, that's, that's a tough one. Reading, uh, you know, so many years of reading. But if I had to say, if I had to say one, like one that I recall, cuz it's very, I read it very early on and, you know, when you're young and impressionable and, uh, some of these, these, these books or these messages from these individuals have such a, an impact. I would say one of 'em was, uh, Tony Robbins awakened a giant. Oh. It really helped me open my eyes and realize that, uh, the world doesn't give us like what we think we deserve. It, it, it gives us what we're willing to go out and take. So that book talks about, you know, controlling your mental, emotional, financial, uh, you know, destiny. Uh, so it was really interesting, like, it, it opened up my eyes to have being taken control. Of your destiny and not just being, you know, a victim or a product of it. You, you, everyone creates their own destiny. Right. And if you don't take action, uh, don't expect results.
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: Yeah. You're not driving it. You are being driven by it.
Michael Malfa: Exactly. Exactly. And you'll never be as happy when you're being driven by it. Right. Because, you know, you're at the mercy of, of all these external variables when you're driving, when you're in the driver's seat, you control the narrative, you know?
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: You know, there was something similar, uh, regarding the faith and destiny, uh, in Ultima. I'm not sure if you got a chance to read it, but, uh, it says, uh, if you want something desperately, the whole universe conspires to deliver it to you.
Michael Malfa: Hmm. And what's that called? Kb?
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: The book?
Michael Malfa: Yeah, the book.
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: It's, it's Alchemist.
Michael Malfa: Okay. I'm gonna read. On my list.
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: It, it's, it's based on a, it, it's it's official story, but with lots of life lessons. Ah, yeah. It's, it's a good one.
Michael Malfa: Nice. My, my partner's reading the Art of War right now, again for the second time. So that's another classic. Yes. Uh, and he's saying like, it's, it's still so relevant today, even though it was written. Hundreds, maybe thousands of years ago. I'm not sure. It was written a long time ago. It's still, it's still so relative. And you're right, same thing. You can just apply it related in so many aspects of day-to-day life.
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: Right, right. Well, uh, finally, can you share any exciting new developments, uh, or upcoming initiatives at Boardwalk Insurance that our listeners should be on the lookout?
Michael Malfa: Yeah, sure. Uh, there, there's, there's a lot in the pipeline. , like, what I'm most excited for, I would say, is we have some really, uh, cutting edge features coming to our system. Our, our backend system. Um, they're, they're quite large. They're, they're big features and they're gonna double our speed, at least double our speed on customer intake. So it's a combination of features that we're hoping to complete. Early to mid q3, and it's gonna allow us to onboard customers a lot more seamlessly, a lot faster, a lot simpler, uh, and essentially, you know, we can ramp up our sales ability by at least, at least 200% if, if all goes well. Wow. Without going into too much details, I I, I, I can definitely bore you with the details, but, uh, once they're, once they're live, I'll definitely share them with you. Uh, once the first iteration MVP of it is live, you'll be the first to know.
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: I'll be on the lookout for that. And, and, and, and this is also exciting. My best wishes. And if in any way we can be of help, please do let us know.
Michael Malfa: Absolutely. I know it's, what you're doing is great and I'm looking forward to, uh, To stand and talks with you. Kb appreciate it. A step.
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: Well, Michael, thank you so much for your time and, uh, it was fantastic talking to you. I'll share the, the podcast list, uh, you know, link as soon as it's out, and I enjoyed our conversation today.
Michael Malfa: Likewise, looking forward to it.
Khuldeep “KB” Bhatnagar: Perfect. Well, thank you everyone for tuning into another episode of Princess Transformation with FBSPL. If you like our content, please leave us a five star rating on Apple Podcast and if you have any questions on how to scale your insurance business, Please let us know while LinkedIn and I and our team of experience will be more than delighted to answer your questions on here. Well, thank you everyone. Take care, Michael. Cheers.
Michael Malfa: Bye bye.