Day Drinking and Sexual Harassment "Are Thriving" at 330 Year Old Lloyds of London

Lloyds of London runs a 330-year-old exchange for the worldwide insurance market, not unlike the New York Stock Exchange of old. Most everything at Lloyd's, including the brokers, operates the old fashion way, using things like rubber stamps, pens and paper. In other words, Lloyd’s is keeping it old-school – but this is true in more ways than one, according to a new Bloomberg Businessweek write up.

The report suggests that a deep-seated culture of sexual harassment, inclusive of inappropriate remarks and unwanted touching – all the way to sexual assault - is still commonplace at the company. Bloomberg talked to 18 women who had more than 300 years of combined experience in the insurance market and they described Lloyd's as an "atmosphere of near persistent harassment".

One insider said that it is "basically a meat market", describing an incident where a senior manager drunkenly attacked her in a pub around the corner from Lloyd’s. Her employer had convinced her subsequently not to file a complaint and she, like many other women, now simply just avoid the trading floor at Lloyd’s, which is made up of "a sea of men".

Recent Lloyd's CEO Inga Beale tried to push for modernization of technology, attitudes and behaviors and was said to have "met resistance at every step". Her tenure as CEO lasted not even five years. In fact, some believe that the modest advances achieved under her term are in jeopardy and that Lloyd’s could actually be on the verge of regressing.

Beale, for example, tried to implement rules in early 2017 to stop drinking during the day. “The London market historically had a reputation for daytime drinking, but that has been changing. Drinking alcohol affects individuals differently. A zero limit is therefore simpler,” she said in a note.  

As a result, complaints from inside of Lloyd's began to echo across the industry. Some men compared it to big brother, while others sneered as though Beale was trying to act like their mothers. The ban has been "widely ignored", according to the article.

Some anonymous critics via e-mail and paper told her to "go and die" and others told her to stop speaking openly about her bisexuality. 

The men at Lloyd’s pride themselves on their well tailored dark blue and gray suits, often with stripes. Despite the bank lifting a code mandating suits, it’s clear that "almost everyone" still adheres to it. At the exchange, underwriters have been known to send brokers away from their boxes for not wearing a neck tie.

Women were banned from the Lloyd’s floor until 1973 but, like the dress code, changing the rules didn’t seem to change the culture. Women at the bank continue to be judged by their looks according to Mairi Mallon, an insurance public-relations specialist.

She wrote in 2017: “Women at Lloyd’s boxes [are] still being called a host of names including 'totty' and they’re rated 'from 1-10 on ‘shagability.’ ” Traders have been known to still call women at the exchange "box bitches". 

Many of the women that Bloomberg spoke to said that going after Lloyd's in the UK courts wasn’t a feasible option given the cost involved. They also were concerned about their reputation in the industry.

One female broker said: “Unless you have a rich father, you aren’t going to be able to afford suing. You’re also going to f---ing destroy your reputation, and you basically have to decide that you will never work in the industry again.”

All of them spoke to Bloomberg under the condition of anonymity, despite working for some of the world's largest insurers and insurance brokers.

John Neal, Lloyd’s new CEO said in a statement: “No one should ever experience harassment of any kind at work, and it is distressing to hear that this is still happening. We take it extremely seriously and will be talking to the Lloyd’s market to ensure that we stamp out these inappropriate behaviors. Lloyd’s has worked really hard to put the broadest inclusion agenda at the center of everything we do.”

You can read Bloomberg’s full longform article here.