Success Through Innovation
CooperVision’s Bob Ferrigno sees breakthroughs in manufacturing and drug delivery through contact lenses.
Bob Ferrigno, CooperVision North America president.
The following “Industry Insights” installment is an excerpt of a conversation between Scot Morris, OM’s chief optometric editor, and Bob Ferrigno, CooperVision, president, North America.
What do you feel are the greatest threats or challenges to the eyecare profession?
There are a lot of unknowns in today’s eyecare industry. First is the question of what impact managed care is ultimately going to have on the industry as a whole. As we try to understand the potential impact, we have come to realize there are a lot of different perspectives in terms of how much and how fast managed care will change the industry. The opinions range from fast and immediate to a slow, long-term change. We simply don’t know yet.
Second is the rapidly changing rate of technology. Breakthrough concepts from lens manufacturing to the future of drug delivery through contact lenses are all very exciting and will likely impact not only the vision and comfort but potentially also the overall general health of the contact lens wearer.
Third, there is so much potential for growth in the contact lens market. The population of contact lens wearers has been relatively stable at around 37 million wearers and around 130 million globally. This is but a small fraction of the potential wearers. So as an industry, we have to ask ourselves, “How do we get more people wearing contact lenses,?” And likewise, “How do we prevent them from dropping out of wear?” The new contact lens materials and the rise of daily disposable wear will likely lead the charge, but there are many hurdles we need to overcome.
Lastly, I think that consolidation of the industry will continue to make the contact lens industry more competitive from a manufacturing standpoint. CooperVision is focused on delivering new technologies and enhancing our services to meet the ECP’s needs. We will have to improve our ability to manufacture lenses faster and at more competitive prices. The downside that our industry faces is that the mom and pop shops will struggle because of the competitive pressure of the larger conglomerates. The top 20% will continue to grow, and the bottom 50% will feed them. CooperVision prides itself on the ability to understand ECPs and assist them in building their practices to stay competitive.
What are the greatest opportunities?
Our greatest opportunity is to successfully introduce more people to contact lenses and convert them into regular contact lens wearers. To increase the percentage of the population in contact lenses, we need to understand why people choose contact lenses and why some people stop wearing them too. As we continue to introduce new technologies that improve the fit and performance of contact lenses, we will be able to keep consumers in lenses longer, enabling the industry to expand — whether this be through improvements in hygiene or materials, such as daily disposables.
We also continue to look for success through innovation with the development of a full range of toric lenses, as well as a full range of multifocal lenses to meet the needs of our aging population.
The Ferrigno family at son Anthony’s high school graduation in June 2013, from left: Nicole, Jaylen, Brittany, Kaia, Anthony, Bob, Laura and Alysha. Kaia and Nicole were adopted from China; Jaylen and Alysha are foster children.
What does the profession need to do for industry to ensure our mutual survival?
There is a greater opportunity to work together. We need to bring in academia, professional organizations and contact lens companies to help address some of the challenges that the ECP and the industry are facing in today’s changing conditions. Together, we can solve the problems of the industry.
Mr. Ferrigno discusses growth in the contact lens market.
What is the most important thing that the profession needs to know about what your company is focusing on through the next 12 months?
CooperVision is a fast-growing company. We have gained a significant share through the last few years because of innovative new products that are growing in all categories of lenses.
For example, our new silicone hydrogel — MyDay, which is currently available in Europe and Australia — is a very exciting product. We anticipate that we will bring it to the United States in early 2015.
We are continuing to extend our ranges in all our contact lens brands and modalities. We have a full R&D agenda of new products planned for launch through the next three to five years.
Our industry should know that CooperVision is more than a contact lens company. We are an organization that has made a number of philanthropic donations. We have supported Optometry Giving Sight with gifts of more than $1 million a year, directed at sites all over the world to improve products, services and education in developing countries. This commitment makes our people feel good and allows us to be a very collaborative company in helping the world “Live Brightly.”
Can you share one personal item that industry should know about you?
I have five children: one out of college, one in college, two in high school, who were adopted from China, and my family is in the process of adopting a 4 year-old. We have been foster parents and legal guardians. The “Ferrigno purpose” is to change children’s lives one child at a time.
What was your first job, and what did you learn that you apply to your current position?
I had my first job for 11 years, working every summer at a landscape company. Here, I learned the most important principle in my career, which is to treat everyone with kindness and respect, regardless of race, beliefs and background.
If we take care of people, we will be successful. In the business world. it is all about taking care of the customer. OM