Sitting Down With… Tim Clover, CEO of Rayner
What route did you take to become CEO of Rayner?
I began my career in R&D but, at that time, I wasn’t sure if it was for me. Now, in the middle of my career, R&D is one of my passions within the company. Nevertheless, I switched from a PhD to an MBA and went up through the commercial company ranks. I was involved in Zeiss’ acquisition of Humphrey Instruments from Allergan and, by virtue of that, I found my way into Allergan. There, I was lucky enough to work with Jim Mazzo and some other interesting industry figures. I then became one of the early members of AMO (Advanced Medical Optics), when it spun off from Allergan – in fact, I worked on that transition.
At that point, my career took a slightly more entrepreneurial turn. I span a company out of Oxford University, and it ended up being quite successful, so I found myself in Fidelity, running a private equity fund. As part of that role I purchased a group of eye hospitals and turned them into Optegra – a leading worldwide provider of eye surgery centers operating from 23 specialist eye hospitals across Europe. In 2014 I became a non-executive director of Rayner with a brief to develop a strategic growth plan for the company which led to me being appointed CEO in 2015.
How has Rayner changed during your time at the company?
It is a fascinating company with a long history, but it had some real problems at the time when I started to get involved, such as a lack of product innovation. We had a large opticians’ business with 200 shops, which was, frankly, unable to compete with the large high street chains and the impact of the internet. In the end we sold the opticians aspect of the business, and decided to bring the focus to high-tech IOL manufacturing.
We’ve now built a state-of-the-art manufacturing center in the UK, with a capacity for three million IOLs per year. I also wanted to strengthen and build the R&D team, and to foster collaborations with clinicians and entrepreneurs to drive the introduction of products to fill the immediate gap in our business, and to return Rayner to its heritage as a product innovator. At the same time, I knew we needed to develop the next range of more transformative products for the future. In fact, I want Rayner to be the partner of choice for surgeons and innovators, being small enough to really care about new product development, large enough to launch a product globally, but open enough to collaborate jointly on projects with inventors – quite a different approach to some of our larger competitors.
We’re now launching the Rayner “patient journey,” which secures our position as a company that is fully focused on patients’ visual outcomes. From AEON for the tear film pre- and post-surgery to a comprehensive range of IOLs, and RayPRO to collect three-year outcome data. Visual outcomes is our sole focus – and we want to do it better than anybody else in the industry!
What latest innovations are you most excited by?
We’ve recently introduced RayPRO – an app-based system for the collection of three years of patient follow-up data on every single Rayner lens that is implanted. It truly amazed me to think that there are apps out there offering users a wealth of data on everyday activities, such as running or cycling, and yet, many surgeons still have no data on patients, even one month after surgery. I think there is really exciting potential for ophthalmology to start engaging not just with clinical trials of 50 or 60 patients, but to have insights from datasets of more than 500,000 patients. This is exactly what we aspire to be able to do with RayPRO within five years.
Where is RayPRO right now – and how do you see it developing over the coming years?
We launched RayPRO at ASCRS in 2019, and the product is now available worldwide. We originally set ourselves some quite conservative targets for the first year – and so, within the first two months, we had more than doubled our targets for the whole year. We’re really happy about the way it is rolling out.
I think the biggest surprise is where it is rolling out; we’re seeing real enthusiasm in countries that were not even in our forecasts. Conversely, in the countries where we thought it would be adopted more aggressively, for example, the UK, there appears to be more conservatism when it comes to sharing data in this way. It is too early to tell whether the app is an overwhelming success yet, but it is something that I am passionate about, and I would love to see it develop as part of our range. When you’re setting investment priorities for R&D, having robust, high-quality data is really important.
Any other product launches of note?
We also launched our RayOne Trifocal Toric at ESCRS 2019 – the last piece of the jigsaw for us in terms of trifocality. It’s a very complicated product to manufacture, and although we actually had the final product much earlier on in the year, we were waiting on a multicenter study in the UK, Germany, Spain and Japan which gave outstanding results.
We’ve also developed a new range of eye drops, AEON, making us the only company in the world with an eye drop that has a labeling claim for before and after eye surgery. Studies show that up to 75 percent of patients get dry eye after cataract surgery – a condition that directly impacts their visual outcomes – we think that it is a really important and possibly overlooked area of our industry.
How do you see your career progressing in the future?
I’ve been in the ophthalmic world for more than 30 years now, and Rayner for me is an absolutely unique opportunity; after all, it is the company that made the world’s first intraocular lens in 1949. In reality, we should be the world’s biggest IOL company; our history is full of innovation and entrepreneurship, including the world’s first ever multifocal toric, the first lens ever approved by the FDA… a whole series of firsts. I see my job as reclaiming and retaining our leadership position in ophthalmology – and I am personally driven to achieve that goal; it’s a company I’ve known for 30 years and I would love to be the architect of its success for the next 30 years – and beyond!
What’s your management style? And does your background in R&D help?
I’d like to think it does. But perhaps I’m just someone who interferes – you’d have to ask the head of R&D whether I help or hinder! Seriously, in my opinion, companies need R&D and product focused chief executives for certain periods in their life, and Rayner needed a period of energy, entrepreneurship and innovation. I certainly see these very much as my own strengths.
But very clearly, the success of Rayner is not solely down to me; it is the result of a great group of people that we’ve been able to bring together within the company. Maybe at a “giant” company, where the world revolves around corporate governance and bureaucracy, I might not be the right leader. But right now I find myself with acres of opportunity, which is both rewarding and stimulating. I’m hoping to be here for a long time to come.