In a recent interview with the Mail on Sunday, Lloyd’s of London Chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown remarked how the historic re/insurance market could end up looking more like a coffee shop again.
It’s well known that Lloyd’s, the oldest insurance market in the world, started life as a coffee shop some 334 years ago and is one of the last remaining face-to-face financial markets on the planet.
The centre of the marketplace is known for its huge underwriting floor, a place where brokers and underwriters have traditionally met to thrash out re/insurance deals for clients around the world.
However, the arrival of COVID-19 saw Lloyd’s close its trading floor on March 19th, 2020, as the market explored options for a virtual underwriting room in light of lockdown restrictions across the UK. Lloyd’s later confirmed plans to reopen its underwriting room from September 1st, 2020, with safety measures in place.
As lockdown measures were relaxed in London and elsewhere across the country, the headcount at Lloyd’s started to increase. However, both the COVID-19 infection rate and death rate soon started to climb once again in the UK, leading the government to once again urge people to work from home where possible.
In response, Lloyd’s announced alterations to the opening hours of its underwriting room. Between November 5th and December 2nd, 2020, the underwriting room will remain closed every day except Wednesdays, when it will be open for full classes of business.
At this time, Lloyd’s urged booking appointments in advance owing to limited space, and said that both brokers and underwriters will be able to connect to those outside of Lloyd’s via the Digital Booths in the coffee house.
Of course, recent news of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus has raised hopes of a return to normality in the second-half of next year.
Clearly, it remains to be seen exactly when a viable vaccine is available and also when this can be rolled out globally.
But for Lloyd’s and the way it has operated historically, the impact of the pandemic could potentially lead to some very significant changes.
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, the Chairman of Lloyd’s explained that while no decision has yet been made, a consultation scheduled for 2021 could lead to the downsizing of the underwriting room.
“The need for underwriting desks may be less important than just creating the right environment for people to meet and discuss different kinds of insurance risks. In a mixed environment, some people will be in the room having that conversation and some people will be on the wall connected digitally,” said Carnegie-Brown.