The Lloyd’s of London Ltd. building stands on Lime Street in London, U.K. (Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)  

Lloyd's of London Unveils Lifetime Bans for Sexual Harassment

(Bloomberg) -- Lloyd’s of London outlined a plan to address allegations of sexual harassment by setting up an independent whistleblower hotline and laying out potential lifetime bans for inappropriate behavior.

The proposals were agreed upon at an emergency meeting of industry executives convened on Monday evening by Lloyd’s Chief Executive Officer John Neal after a Bloomberg Businessweek article found a deep-seated culture of sexual misconduct in the London insurance market. The report drew on the experiences of 18 women to describe an atmosphere of near-persistent harassment, ranging from inappropriate comments to unwanted touching to sexual assault.

"It has been distressing to hear about the experiences of women in the Lloyd’s market," Neal said in a statement. "No one should be subjected to this sort of behaviour, and if it does happen, everyone has the right to be heard and for those responsible to be held to account."

This isn’t the first time Lloyd’s has tried to overhaul its deeply backward-looking culture to better reflect societal changes that have transformed banking and other financial services. Former CEO Inga Beale spent close to five years trying to redirect the industry, pushing for the modernization of attitudes and behaviors -- but she met resistance at every step. The women Bloomberg Businessweek spoke to said while the rhetoric from the top on diversity and inclusion was encouraging, very little had changed in terms of how they were treated by male colleagues in the pubs and bars that surround Lloyd’s .

The women spoke for the article, published last week, only on the condition that their identity be protected, out of concern for the potential damage to their reputation within the industry. They’ve worked for some of the world’s largest insurers and insurance brokers, including Aspen Insurance Holdings, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., Marsh & McLennan, Munich Re, and more.

One of them described an experience in which a senior manager drunkenly attacked her in a pub right around the corner from Lloyd’s. Her employer convinced her it would be bad for her career to pursue a complaint. Other women who experienced similar abuse and had lodged formal complaints said their careers had suffered as a consequence.

Lawmaker Condemnation

The lawmaker who chairs the U.K. Parliament’s Treasury Committee condemned the abuse as unacceptable. “It’s horrendous to hear stories such as this, which clearly have absolutely no place in modern workplace culture nor society more widely,” Nicky Morgan said in a statement. “This sort of behaviour will discourage women from entering the financial sector in the first place”.

That view was echoed by the prominent Labour lawmaker Jonathan Reynolds, who wrote to Neal on Tuesday demanding to know what measures were being put in place to remedy the hostile working environment for women.

“The events described are redolent of behaviour from decades past that has no place in a working environment.” Reynolds said in his letter, a copy of which he posted on Twitter.

Lloyd’s also committed to having an independent culture survey taken to identify the scale of the issue; reviewing policies and practices across the Lloyd’s market, and providing training on prevention and reporting of inappropriate behavior and support for those subject to such behavior. In addition, Lloyd’s said it was adding two women to its nominations committee.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.