Business & Real Estate

VSP Global names next CEO

VSP’s local presence includes this facility in Rancho Cordova and a lens-grinding plant in Folsom. VSP employs about 3,000 people in the region.
VSP’s local presence includes this facility in Rancho Cordova and a lens-grinding plant in Folsom. VSP employs about 3,000 people in the region. Sacramento Bee file

Following a decade of rapid growth, and amid high-tech advances in the optical industry, VSP Global is announcing a leadership change.

Jim McGrann, president of VSP’s Vision Care branch, will become the Rancho Cordova-based eye-care company’s new president and CEO. He’ll assume those duties Oct. 1.

He will succeed Rob Lynch, who has headed the company since 2006. Lynch, 59, said he is retiring as part of a long-term plan.

Under Lynch, VSP Global evolved from primarily a domestic eye-care insurer to an international health care organization operating in 100 countries and covering virtually all aspects of eye care: member benefits, vision practice development, eyewear, customized lenses and ophthalmic technology.

“We have a great position of strength, with five different lines of business, all within the optical industry,” McGrann, 53, said in a phone interview. “My desire is to start unifying those around a single strategy and move that mission forward.” He did not elaborate.

The leadership change comes as VSP expands into more cutting-edge technology, eyewear innovations and outreach to tech-focused millennials.

Last July, for instance, VSP opened The Shop, an innovation hub in midtown Sacramento. At the center’s opening, McGrann said its work would be focused on “changes that will disrupt the industry, but that we want to be in front of ... . You can be disrupted or you can disrupt.” He cited a hypothetical example of using a smartphone application to conduct an eye exam.

In early 2013, VSP teamed up with Google to do all the lenses for Google Glass, the trendy computer-imbedded eyewear. Google has since pulled back on its plans and in January announced it was ceasing production of Google Glass.

VSP’s substantial local presence includes its five-building campus in Rancho Cordova and a lens-grinding facility in Folsom. About half of VSP’s nearly 6,000 worldwide employees work in greater Sacramento.

The company has also expanded its vision insurance division, which McGrann headed for three years, a period when membership rolls swelled from 56 million to 75 million. He also oversaw expansion of VSP insurance offerings in Great Britain and Ireland. This year, the vision care is projected to bring in revenues of $4 billion, making it the company’s dominant player.

Revenues for the private, not-for-profit VSP Global company are expected to reach $5 billion this year.

In addition to growing VSP’s divisions, McGrann also praised Lynch’s efforts to keep young technology talent from heading to the Bay Area for jobs. Starting in 2013, VSP refurbished some of its Rancho Cordova offices to be similar to the hipper, employee-friendly headquarters of Bay Area tech giants such as Google and Facebook.

The changes included comfortable workstations amid large areas of open space and vibrant colors on walls, floors and furnishings. Clear “bubble” chairs hang by ceiling chains. There are large overhead fixtures with nonglare lighting and windows offering panoramic views.

Aside from attracting younger employees, McGrann also wants to design services for younger vision-benefit members.

“Our (vision insurance) membership is about 30 percent millennials. Over the next five years, that will shift to 50 percent millennials,” said McGrann, adding that VSP will be focused on “how they want eye care delivered.”

As for Lynch’s pending retirement, the current CEO said he’s sticking with a retirement plan shared with his colleagues after assuming the post in 2006: “I always had a point of view of how long (a top executive) could be effective. Eight ... to 12 years is the life span of an effective CEO,” he said in a phone interview.

Lynch, an avid outdoorsman whose interests include skiing and mountain climbing, said he wants to devote more time to recreational activities “while I’m still physically capable enough to do them.” His mountain climbing exploits include two ascents of the nearly 14,000-foot Grand Teton peak in northwest Wyoming.

Lynch said he is proud of VSP’s growth and diversification under his nine-year tenure. That includes more than 30 acquisitions of smaller companies. In 2006, for instance, VSP had two laboratories; today, it has 14.

“I think it’s significant that we saw the company grow during a very difficult economic time,” Lynch said. He called his successor “the right leader at the right time with the right expertise to continue VSP’s growth for years to come.”

Lynch is a co-founder of the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council, an economic development organization of local CEOs formed in 2014. He said he plans to remain involved in the group until VSP’s CEO transition is complete.

In a statement, Randy Lee, chairman of the VSP Global board that approved McGrann’s appointment, called Lynch “a transformational leader for VSP... . He retires having laid a strong foundation for the future of our company, and I am pleased that he will be continuing as a member of our board of directors.”

Call The Bee’s Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.

VSP at a Glance

Founded: 1955 in Oakland.

Divisions: VSP Global companies include VSP Vision Care, the vision benefits and services entity with 75 million members and a network of 32,000 eye doctors nationwide; Marchon Eyewear Inc., touted as the world’s third-largest manufacturer, designer and distributor of fashion and technologically advanced eyewear; Eyefinity, a practice-management software company for the eye-care industry; and VSP Optics Group, promoting private practice growth with products and services that include lens technologies.

Reach: VSP companies operate in 100 countries on six continents. It oversees eye doctors in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland.

Financials: The privately held, not-for-profit company projects 2015 revenue of $5 billion.

New CEO: Jim McGrann, 53, effective Oct. 1.

Background: Spent 15 years as a management consultant and partner for Andersen Consulting, PricewaterhouseCoopers, IBM Global Services and Ernst & Young. Served as senior vice president and chief information officer for nine years at Marchon Eyewear Inc., acquired by VSP in 2008. Joined VSP Global in 2008 as president of Eyefinity division. In 2010, McGrann became VSP Global’s chief technology officer and CEO of Eyefinity. He became president of VSP Vision Care in 2012.

Source: VSP Global