Letting in the Light
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Letting in the Light

Lloyd’s CEO John Neal was quick to act following an article alleging unchecked sexual harassment in the market, but is the issue being addressed more widely in the insurance sector

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Lloyd’s first began pursuing a diversity and inclusion agenda several years ago under former CEO Inga Beale, but it took a Bloomberg article in March titled “Drinking, sexual harassing ways are thriving at Lloyd’s” to push the issue onto centre stage.

The article by Gavin Finch painted a damning picture of the marketplace, which he described as having “a deep-seated culture of sexual harassment – the full appalling range, from inappropriate remarks to unwanted touching to sexual assault”.

The journalist spent a year researching the article, interviewing 18 women who he says “described an atmosphere of near-persistent harassment”.

The report has been criticised for being light on specifics – none of the women cited went on record – and their stories were overshadowed by well-worn descriptions of Lloyd’s eccentricities and rehashed interviews Beale gave during her tenure as CEO of the Corporation.

“This was Lloyd’s of the past but we’ve come a long way and I didn’t recognise the market that was painted in the article,” says Roddy Langley, of Lysander PR, who started working in the London market in 1977.

“There are still areas of male ill treatment of women in Lloyd’s, but when I go in the [underwriting] room I perceive a professional atmosphere, a place ever more youthful and at ease with itself – not the febrile marketplace alluded to in the article,” he adds.

But nonetheless the article has had a huge impact, leading the new Lloyd’s CEO John Neal to pledge in the wake of its publication that he would be “ruthless” in the Corporation’s stance against sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour and that offenders could face a lifetime ban from the market if found culpable.

He told Bloomberg in a televised interview that the news outlet’s depiction of the London exchange “is not the Lloyd’s I want to be part of”.

“What I’m clear on is, whatever we say, we’re not doing enough”, Neal said. “This is not the Lloyd’s that many of my colleagues feel they want to be part of either.”

Everyone he had spoken to had been “shattered” by the article, he admitted.

Addressing bad behaviour

Lloyd’s has been quick to take action and within days of the article being published it unveiled a package of measures to address sexual harassment in the marketplace.

Walk around the Lloyd’s building and you will now see posters advertising a 24/7 “Care First Bullying & Harassment” support line, established in April to provide advice and information to those suffering from these acts in the marketplace.

The year-round service is independently run and completely confidential, with a UK freephone number and an international number for those calling from outside the country.

The volume of calls to the line has so far been “modest”, according to a source, who adds: “It’s early days, but the line is functioning pretty well.”

The Corporation is also looking at training and policies to combat inappropriate behaviour which already exists in the insurance industry.

“The aim is to identify what [policies are] market-leading then advertise those back to the marketplace and say these are the policies we absolutely must have in place,” a source says.

Training will be made available on “how to be a courageous bystander” to various levels of staff, up to board level, as Lloyd’s intends for senior staff to be ambassadors for the change.

“If our view of the world is that we [at Lloyd’s] have to show leadership, we should be showing leadership in a way in which we just do not accept inappropriate behaviour,” Neal said.

References to the need for an improved working atmosphere at Lloyd’s were included in the Corporation’s prospectus, launched in May to map out its path towards increased efficiency and lower costs.

“We will struggle to recruit top talent unless we can define and communicate more appealing employee value propositions to candidates, and create an inclusive culture in which everyone is respected and valued,” the prospectus says.

“We must and will reflect the diversity of our customer base, and our talent agenda will be designed to attract the best and offer an open, honest and flexible working environment,” it adds.

“Our industry is facing a talent shortage,” it warns.

Cultural change

The Lloyd’s commitment to reform from within has been welcomed but the culture of inappropriate behaviour runs deep in the insurance market at large and much needs to change, according to women working in the industry in London and elsewhere.

“I don’t know a single senior woman in insurance who hasn’t been harassed in one way or another, as they have risen through the ranks,” says Mairi Mallon, chief executive of PR firm Rein4ce, who has worked in the insurance industry in Bermuda and London for 20 years.

At Monte Carlo, meetings are routinely arranged in hotel suites, an uncomfortable setting for most women, she says.

Another source says: “I’ve had middle-aged men in meeting rooms leaning in. I’ve been mansplained, been looked through, asked to make the coffee. For years I didn’t wear a skirt… I would be told ‘you’ve got a lovely turn of the ankle’.”

One woman filed a harassment complaint and subsequently got signed off while the man kept his job, the source continues.

And it’s not just the workplace that is a problem. After work socialising can also be problematic. “I’ve heard of roofies [date-rape drug Rohypnol] put in drinks,” the source adds.

Despite insurance being an industry based on trust, where most men are considered “gentlemen”, woman are treated differently, she says.

“Men don’t even know they are doing it [sexual harassment] and the men who do see it have daughters,” she adds.

Another woman who has risen up the ranks in reinsurance and the world of ILS remembers being told by her boss that she couldn’t have a senior role if she went part-time after having her first child.

“I was being surpassed by mediocre men, so I left the company,” she says.

At another company, she was bullied by a woman, so again handed in her notice and this time, sued successfully.

“Intrinsically, I am a very loyal person, but if I reach a limit, I move on. It’s important to hold on to your core values,” she says.

“You need to develop a survival technique but you have to ask yourself, do you really want that?”

She says she has since found a company where she can contribute and feel comfortable at the same time.

Legal issues

There have been a number of high-profile sexual harassment cases in the insurance industry, although to date most of these have been in the US.

As Insurance Insider has reported, Lockton is currently facing a lawsuit which alleges a “culture” of sexual harassment at the company.

In April a former data employee for the Lockton Pacific Series filed a lawsuit alleging she was regularly subjected to sexual harassment over 15 years by executives, including the chief executive of the series, Tim Noonan.

She described instances of being groped or slapped on the buttocks in the Los Angeles office, as well as one occasion in which she alleges Noonan “forcibly kissed her on the lips” in an elevator, and another in which he briefly locked her in his office.

The worker, who is of East Asian descent, also claimed she was teased about her ethnicity in a sexually harassing manner, with Lockton partner Mark Carlin referring to her as an “Asian schoolgirl” on multiple occasions.

In London, bullying and harassment claims are brought to the insurance law firm EC3 Legal, which is located within spitting distance of Lloyd’s, but most go down the settlement route.

“Claimants need strong evidence that it [bullying or harassment] has happened,” says the firm’s legal director Marina Garston.

“They also have to be aware that all tribunal decisions are now all online. It’s not just the cost of it. Do you want to go public with something like this is also a question” she says.

Lloyd’s attempt to overhaul the culture of the marketplace could mean it’s more likely that people will come forward, she adds.

Speaking up

According to one source who spoke to Insider Quarterly, men need to play a bigger role in calling out harassment and bullying.

In the wake of the Bloomberg article and following Neal’s lead, there have been calls for a culture change in the industry.

CEO of Allianz Insurance Jon Dye used an address at the annual British Insurance Brokers’ Association conference in May to speak out on the issue, saying some of the behaviours detailed in the Bloomberg report stemmed from the gender imbalance in insurance and that such behaviours were not tolerated in his organisation.

At the same event, Allied World head of commercial Darren Rowe urged the sector to “change the way we’re perceived”.

And AIG president and CEO Brian Duperreault has said zero-tolerance policies on harassment must involve men speaking up if they see a male colleague violating such policies.

Often bad behaviour is called out by men rather than the woman herself because she fears her career will be stymied in some way or she will get a reputation for being a troublemaker, says Barbara Schönhofer, a headhunter who manages board and senior management search assignments.

It is time for men and women who want things to be different to demand change together, she says. “It takes hundreds of years for things to change organically, there isn’t time for that anymore.”

There is an irony in that one of Beale’s greatest achievements during her time as CEO at Lloyd’s was the attention she drew to injustices in the London (re)insurance market, but it took a white middle-aged man to call it out for everyone to take notice.

Beale was a key driver of Dive In, the festival for diversity and inclusion in insurance, which this year celebrates its five-year anniversary.

She used her platform to raise awareness of inequality but was often despised for it. “You had charming men spitting feathers about her,” says one source.

While it is hard to argue with Lloyd’s outspokenness on the harassment and bullying issue and its swift response to the Bloomberg report, what happens next is key.

Lloyd’s has already put its plan on hold for access points to enable people to report inappropriate behaviour or get advice confidentially, albeit because the hotline is deemed to be working well so far.

There are doubts about whether there will be full participation in Lloyd’s culture and work practice surveys, and measuring progress on such sensitive issues may prove impossible.

It was hardly encouraging that the phrase “How many naked ladies would...” was written on a blackboard in a pub in Leadenhall Market shortly after the Bloomberg article was published – albeit advertising the eponymous guest ale available on draught that day, but not exactly the greatest timing.

What most sources agree on is that change in the insurance sector will have to come both from within the rank and file and from the leadership.

“A hotline is not certainly not going to be enough,” one source concludes.

This article was first published in the Summer 2019 issue of Insider Quarterly