Irish Pensions and Finance

Where did it start?

As we come towards our thirtieth anniversary, IPF has 65 employees, over €700M in funds under management and 24,000+ clients. By any measure, we’ve been a strong and successful company over a sustained period of time, but where did it all start? I spoke to Owen Dwyer, the company’s founder and ex-MD who retired last year.

‘I was working as a Sales Manager in Canada Life, back in 1993.’ Owen tells me. ‘When I decided to leave and start up my own business. It felt like the right thing to do at the time, and it was a decision I never regretted. At first, I was working completely alone, but in 1995 I went into partnership with a friend and colleague, David Dunleavy – it was after this point the company began to take shape.’ It was a partnership that was to last 23 years. 

Having worked with David for many years myself, I remember the chemistry between him and Owen, which included awful jokes, frequent rows and a shared determination. I asked Owen about it. 

‘Yes, me and Dave used to argue a lot, but that was our method of arriving at the right decision. I think I can say we never stood on ceremony and were always willing to give way to the other if the idea was stronger. That’s an integral part of any business relationship. Despite our differences, we respected each other and shared a set of values, the most important of which was to always put our clients first. We were both absolutely committed to this principle, and I think it stood to us over the years. I like to think it’s something we passed down to Claire and the current generation.’

I asked Owen about other principles they may have shared. ‘We believed in looking after the staff – I’d seen the way people were treated in other companies I’d worked for and it struck me as both immoral and counterproductive to see the bullying, lack of respect and downright dishonesty that was prevalent in the industry back then. Our philosophy was to hire the right people, treat them properly and develop mutually beneficial long-term relationships. I can’t express how proud I am of the people we hired who are currently running IPF – it’s my single greatest achievement.’ 

About the challenges he faced over the years, Owen is candid. ‘Hiring the wrong people is the biggest pitfall any company faces. It’s almost impossible to make the right selection all the time and we got better at it with experience. But those who slipped through the net caused no end of grief and problems with colleagues and clients, especially around the time of the recession when we were all feeling vulnerable. You can do anything with the right people and nothing with those who are wrong for the company.’

I asked Owen if he’d do anything differently, given his time again. ‘Not differently, but quicker,’ he says. ‘I’d like to have arrived at our consultative approach to the clients a bit earlier – it’s such a robust, mutually beneficial approach.’ Finally, any regrets? ‘Too few to mention.’ 

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