Lloyd’s of London needs to deal with allegations of sexual harassment “head on” according to the organisation that represents insurers in the market.
Sheila Cameron, chief executive of the Lloyd’s Market Association, said: “Sexual harassment is simply indefensible in any workplace and all instances should be dealt with swiftly and appropriately . . . Both victims and witnesses of any form of workplace harassment must be encouraged to come forward.”
She was speaking after a Bloomberg article reported that 18 women who have worked in the market “described an atmosphere of near-persistent harassment.” One woman said she was attacked by a senior manager in a pub near Lloyd’s.
John Neal, who became chief executive of Lloyd’s last year, said: “No one should ever experience harassment of any kind at work and it is distressing to hear that this is still happening.
He added: “We take it extremely seriously and will be talking to the Lloyd’s market to ensure that we stamp out these inappropriate behaviours.”
Mr Neal was appointed following the departure of Inga Beale, who was an advocate for improving the culture and diversity of the market.
Some people who work in the market say that it still has a “laddish” reputation, in which lunchtime drinking in the pubs nearby is a regular feature of doing business. Others say they have experienced verbal intimidation — one woman told the Financial Times she was asked to improve her dress sense.
However one person who has spent decades in the market said she had never experienced any sort of physical or verbal harassment and did not know others who had.
There has been a concerted effort in the London insurance market — which includes both Lloyd’s and the businesses that operate nearby — to improve behaviour.
Last year 50 insurers and brokers signed up to an “inclusive behaviours pledge” in which they promised that everyone would be treated “with respect, courtesy and dignity” and “in a manner free from discrimination and objectification”.
Clare LeBecq, chief executive of the London Market Group that represents insurers and brokers inside and outside Lloyd’s, said: “The market has recognised that it needs to change its working practices and culture and much work is under way to do so.”
The latest allegations come as a case in the UK High Court shines a light on the conduct of some of the brokers who work in and around Lloyd’s.
The case involves accusations that UK broker Ardonagh poached staff from Alesco, a rival. It was alleged in court that an Alesco executive called one of the members of staff who had left a “complicated fat Arab”.
A spokesperson for Gallagher, Alesco’s parent company, said that the choice of words was regrettable and in no way reflected the ethical and respectful culture at the company.