This year, VIPR celebrates its 10th Anniversary. Since its formation in 2009, the company has grown from just three employees to over 35 and has built up an impressive client base including, managing agents, MGA’s, insurance companies and brokers. Today, VIPR has established itself as an award-winning and leading provider of sophisticated software solutions for the insurance market.
In recognition of this momentous occasion, we’ve interviewed its founders, brothers, Bob and Richard Brown to find out more about VIPR’s past, present and future as well as to find out the benefits of working with family.
Q: How did VIPR come about? As brothers, was it an active choice to work together or more of a coincidence?
Bob – Following the sale of shares in a previous Lloyd’s brokerage business in 1996, I wanted a change of direction and new challenge. Richard and I discussed the possibility of working together and made the decision to team up. In 1997 we launched the first personal finance comparison site in the UK which we went onto sell, before launching VIPR in 2009.
Q: What is VIPR’s company ethos?
Bob – To provide best-in-breed software solutions and services. We want to stand out from run-of-the-mill software companies and ensure the customer always comes first.
Q: What were your ambitions for VIPR, and have you met – or even surpassed those ambitions?
Bob – Our ambition was to provide badly needed solutions to complex problems facing the insurance industry. I can speak for both Richard and I, to say that as market leaders in our specialist sphere, we have surpassed our original expectations.
Q: Who was your first customer and how did it come about?
Bob – Our first customer was the Lloyd’s broker, CJ Coleman, who we worked with in the very early days. Coleman Ambris, now Ambris is still a customer to this day with a successful Quote & Bind facility.
Q: What challenges has VIPR experienced, and how did it successfully overcome them?
Bob – Building the software itself is very challenging, it’s hard work with a lot of time dedicated to the process. Once the software has been developed you then have the challenge of ensuring it is a success and received well with customers and the industry.
We were fortunate to build an extremely competent team of developers and support staff from the very start to ensure each solution was optimised before launching to the market. This was also made possible, by working closely with potential clients who helped us understand the issues being faced in the industry so we could meet market needs with our solutions – this was key to our product development and still is today.
Q: What are VIPR’s most notable accomplishments over the years?
Bob – The success of our products, building a successful team and our loyal client following – many of whom have been using our products for years.
Q: What are some of your fondest memories of the past 10 years?
Bob – Working with my brother and seeing the company grow beyond our expectations.
Richard – Seeing an idea flourish from a blank sheet of paper to a fully developed product which ultimately delivers what our clients want.
Q: What are the benefits of working with family, and what have been the biggest challenges?
Bob – Total trust between brothers, it saves a great deal of heartache and company politics. The biggest challenge was sorting out our individual roles, so we were not both trying to do the same thing. Fortunately, our strengths and weaknesses complement each other, and it has worked out well.
Richard – Trust and an almost telepathic ability to understand exactly what each other is thinking. One of the challenges we face is that outsiders sometime view the company as a family business whereas the reality is far from it; we have a growing skilled and dedicated team who all contribute to the success of the company.
Q: How do you think the insurance industry has evolved in the last 10 years?
Richard – Detailed analysis has become more sophisticated and increasing regulation has imposed greater discipline on the insurance markets.
Q: If there is one thing the insurance industry should do now, what should it be?
Bob – Focus on the changes that can make a real difference
Richard – Try not to be too clever or overcomplicate the solutions that are required to modernise the industry
Q: Describe VIPR in 15 words or less?
Bob – A best in breed organisation renowned for delivering leading insurance software solutions.
Q: Any amusing stories you can share?
Richard – We often get people do a double take when we turn up to meetings together as we look so similar and regularly get asked if we are twins – sometimes up to four times a day! We have great fun confusing people who don’t know us.
Q: What’s in store for VIPR in the next 10 years?
Bob – Our focus will be on our commitment in providing excellent products and first-class service as we continue to grow, and therefore we will be continuing to build our product portfolio, team and client base as well as moving into other territories in conjunction with strategic partners.
Q: And lastly, what one piece of advice would you give for siblings who are starting to work together?
Bob – Everyone will warn you not to, but if you get on and feel you can work together, then go for it. I’m sure that Richard will agree that it was one of the best decisions we ever made in our lives.
Richard – If you have a good idea just get on and do it! Define roles and responsibilities at an early stage so you are not treading on each other’s toes. I agree with Bob – it’s the best thing we have ever done and much more fun than we could have imagined.