Service of Celebrating the Worst of the Past: What’s with Lloyd’s of London?

March 25th, 2019

Categories: Harassment, Insurance, Tradition

 

Lloyd’s of London Photo: en.wikipedia.com

I was surprised that this behavior survives in a civilized country.

I first heard this story on Bloomberg Radio over the weekend during a review of Bloomberg Businessweek stories. For more I linked to Gavin Finch’s story, “The Old Daytime-Drinking, Sexual-Harassing Ways Are Thriving at Lloyd’s.”

During the radio interview he emphasized the rampant drinking during business hours even more than in the article. It seems that after each insurance deal those involved retire to the local pub to celebrate, often many times a day. Sounded like “Mad Men” and the advertising industry in the 1960s though drinking in the latter took place at lunch while in London the practice seems to happen 9 to 5.

Appalling behavior outweighs the old world traditions that Finch described. He covered the unchecked “deep-seated culture of sexual harassment” for the majority of the article. The drinking makes it a dangerous place for women to work, he wrote.

For almost five years Inga Beale, as CEO, did her best to address “modernization of technology, attitudes, and behaviors—and met resistance at every step.” Currently, women in the industry “fear that Lloyd’s, already a deeply backward-looking institution, might actually be on the verge of regressing.” Finch added: “When she took over, everything was being done on paper, much as it had been for the past three centuries. By the time she stepped down, about 16.5 percent of the market’s business was being placed online.”

Lloyd’s coffee house Photo: en.wikipedia.com

The drinking isn’t the only thing that harkens to the past and some is charming if anachronistic. Finch wrote: “Beyond the quaint nature of the trading, other rites date to the first exchange Edward Lloyd opened in a 1680s London coffee shop. When a ship is lost at sea, the event is recorded with a quill pen in a leather-bound ledger kept near the center of the main trading floor, which Lloyd’s calls the underwriting room. To mark major disasters that yield billions of dollars in claims, such as the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, a man in a red tunic and white gloves rings a golden bell.”

And According to Finch “the underwriters and brokers of Lloyd’s mostly do business the old-fashioned way: face-to-face, using rubber stamps, pens, and sheaves of paper. Well-tailored dark blue and gray suits are the norm, often with bold chalk stripes. One does not wear brown shoes. A code mandating suits was lifted last year, but it was clear on several recent tours of the trading floors that almost everyone still adheres to it. Some of the older underwriters wear brightly colored suspenders, or braces. Even by the standards of London’s financial district, the vibe is sartorially conservative.”

Was this news to you as it was for me? How come such behavior is accepted in the global marketplace? Isn’t the contemporary look of the Lloyd’s building in striking contrast to the culture of this company and what goes on inside? Do you think working under the influence impacts the insurance industry?

Lloyd’s lost ship ledger. Photo: reddit.com

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6 Responses to “Service of Celebrating the Worst of the Past: What’s with Lloyd’s of London?”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    Drinking on the job is a practice which usually gets one fired. If this piece regarding Lloyds has any truth to it, it’s a sorry disgrace. If not, it’s defamatory and a law suit is sure to follow. There’s nothing wrong with drinking, but guzzling at work may compromise, not only the reputation of one’s employer, but the company’s existence in a shark infested field.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Given the publisher–Bloomberg–lawyers must have been all over the story to confirm accuracy before publishing it. I too have nothing against drinking however I find it often makes me sleepy which is not what you need to feel when conducting business. The operation shrieks anachronism and inefficiency. Wonder what the impact on the insurance industry would be if they cleaned up the place?

  3. Edward Baecher Said:

    Edward wrote on Facebook: I saw a black and white movie last year about Lloyds of London, amazing simplicity.

    A friend of mine, George, a local diner owner told me how back in the 1980s the white collar IBM workers would pack the place every day for liquid lunches that would carry-on for hours. He recalls one of the worst days of his business was back in 1992 or so when IBM cut 18,000 workers and his diner turned into a ghost town.

    The demise of Lloyd’s might be closer than they think.

  4. EAB Said:

    EAB wrote on Facebook: Edward, Not everyone at IBM drinks/drank on the job.. I had several from their math department as bridge partners, and they were as sober as rocks. Over and above that, it’s naïve not to believe that heavy drinkers exist in every line of work from the office dogsbody to the highest exec. If their habits don’t impair assigned tasks, it might be best to let well enough alone.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Edward,

    WOW! I am naïve. I see no raucous activity in elevators in my office building these days nor in those I visit but am not in a neighborhood with financial big wigs

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    EAB,

    An out of control drinker can discombobulate any outfit but offices full of them that seems to describe the situation at Lloyd’s is another matter. I wouldn’t want to be the sober one in the group. It would feel quite threatening.

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