In the era of #MeToo when the ills of sexual harassment are regularly in the news, a recent article published by Bloomberg Businessweek indicates that some men working in the London insurance market still haven’t gotten the message about appropriate male behavior.
With the devastating headline, “The Old Daytime-Drinking, Sexual-Harassing Ways Are Thriving at Lloyd’s,” the article describes the 330-year-old London insurance market as “the most archaic corner left in global finance.”
In the article, 18 women were interviewed, who detailed “an atmosphere of near-persistent harassment,” ranging from “inappropriate remarks to unwanted touching.”
Ironically, the article was published on the same day as an announcement about this year’s “Dive-In”, an international festival for diversity and inclusion in insurance, which was originally launched in the London market and has been embraced by the insurance industry across the globe.
Lloyd’s responded to the reports with an action plan designed to create “a safe and inclusive working environment,” which includes possible lifetime bans for the perpetrators of sexual harassment.
Despite the bad behavior described in the article, the Lloyd’s and London markets have made some progress with diversity and inclusion over the past decade. Women increasingly have entered leadership positions, including one of the most prominent examples, Inga Beale, who was Lloyd’s CEO between 2014 and 2018 and a self-described bisexual.
When her departure from Lloyd’s was announced in June 2018, Lloyd’s Chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown, reflected on her tenure, saying, she had “set in motion a series of changes aimed at modernizing the market and making it more efficient and inclusive.”
However, the Bloomberg article had a different take on Beale’s experience as CEO, saying that she “pushed for modernization of technology, attitudes, and behaviors — and met resistance at every step.”
Therefore, the question remains about the work environment that still prevails in the Lloyd’s and London markets, even if lip service is being paid to efforts toward diversity and inclusion.
On March 26, in response to the Bloomberg article, Lloyd’s instituted a set of actions that is intended to increase reporting, impose strong sanctions on those found to be responsible for inappropriate behavior and create better understanding and awareness of the issues. It includes:
- Provision of an independently managed, confidential and market-wide access point for reporting inappropriate behavior.
- Confirmation that, where investigations conclude that individuals have a case to answer, they will be subject to sanctions from their own companies and also from Lloyd’s. They may be banned from entering Lloyd’s for a fixed period and potentially for life.
- Undertaking an independent and market-wide culture survey to identify the scale and scope of the issue, and to inform further action.
- A comprehensive review of policies and practices across the Lloyd’s market, with a view to identifying and sharing best practice.
- Provision of training focused on prevention, as well as reporting and supporting those who have been subjected to inappropriate behavior. These actions are in addition to those already reported, namely:
- A commitment to hear the accounts of the women who contributed to the article published by Bloomberg, in a safe and confidential space.
- Changes to Lloyd’s Nominations Committee to increase diversity. Fiona Luck (Lloyd’s Board) and Vicky Carter (Lloyd’s Council) will join the Committee with immediate effect, succeeding Sir David Manning and Charles Franks.
“It has been distressing to hear about the experiences of women in the Lloyd’s market. No one should be subjected to this sort of behavior, and if it does happen, everyone has the right to be heard and for those responsible to be held to account,” said Lloyd’s CEO, John Neal. “I am pleased that the market has given its full support for a strong set of actions, and I am determined that Lloyd’s offers a safe and inclusive working environment for everyone.”
The plan has been developed in collaboration with and endorsed by Lloyd’s Board and Council, and by the associations representing the Lloyd’s market – Lloyd’s Market Association (LMA) and the London & International Insurance Brokers Association (LIIBA).
“Sexual harassment is simply indefensible in any workplace and all instances should be dealt with swiftly and appropriately. We, like all other industries facing this issue, must continue to deal with any reports of harassment, head on,” said Sheila Cameron, CEO of the LMA, which represents the interests of the Lloyd’s community, in a statement issued immediate after the Bloomberg article was published.
“Both victims and witnesses of any form of workplace harassment must be encouraged to come forward,” she continued.
“Victims and witnesses must have confidence in the robust and fair processes and procedures put in place by the leaders of their companies, and those leaders have a responsibility to ensure their workplaces are safe from any form of harassment,” Cameron said.
“In recent years the Lloyd’s and London insurance market has taken enormous strides to advance the diversity and inclusion agenda, particularly through the annual Dive In festival, which attracts thousands of market practitioners to participate each year, as well as other important initiatives such as the Inclusive Behaviours Pledge, which was signed by a large number of insurers, brokers and market associations.”
Indeed, on the same day as the Bloomberg article was published, London’s Dive In organizers sent out a press release announcing the dates in September of the fifth annual festival for diversity and inclusion in insurance (Sept. 24-26.) The press release said the success of Dive In, shows “the overwhelming appetite for practical events that enable the insurance sector to translate awareness of the business case for diversity and inclusion into action.” More than 30 countries and 9,000 people are set to participate this year.
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