By Carolyn Cohn
LONDON, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Lloyd's of London reopened its
underwriting floor for the first time in nearly six months on
Tuesday, with the first day back marked by a protest over the
underwriting of coal and tar sands.
The COVID-19 pandemic triggered the first shutdown in the
history of the 330-year old commercial insurance market's
"underwriting room" in mid-March.
Brokers and underwriters met in the room to agree complex
insurance deals, covering anything from oil rigs to footballers'
Industry sources say the enforced working from home has
catapulted Lloyd's towards greater use of electronic trading,
although some trades still require face to face contact.
"The tacit knowledge exchange that comes from being together
is crucial to that ability to trade risks the rest of the world
can't," Christopher Croft, CEO of insurance broker trade body
"Insure Our Future" protesters outside the building,
meanwhile, said Lloyd's has one of the worst climate records
among global insurers.
Lloyd's is insuring the proposed Adani Carmichael mine in
Australia and the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline in Canada.
Lloyd's said it did not set underwriting policy for its
90-plus syndicate members but was "committed to building
consensus" among members to drive the transition to a low-carbon
The transition back-to-office work involves yellow signs on
the Lloyd's floor indicating a one-way system and plastic
screens between desks.
Visitors are banned, and brokers and underwriters will only
be allocated floor time for a day or two a week, depending on
the type of insurance they write.
The floor has a maximum capacity of 45% of its previous
occupancy, and glass lifts visible on the outside of the
market's City tower will take at most three people.
The building's barber shop and cafe will stay closed.
Lloyd's is also piloting a virtual underwriting room, which
it said would be open to a greater number of firms later this
Insurers and brokers are also returning to work across the
City of London this month.
Broker Gallagher said its London office would open on Sept.
21, although regional offices were already open, and brokers
could meet clients at Lloyd's before then.
Insurer Aviva, said only 5% of its staff were at the
office nationwide but it expected that to double to 10% in
September, and increase further from October.
A survey by tech firm Culture Shift showed 62% of insurance
employees found working from home had improved their work-life
balance, with nearly half "dreading going back to the
(Reporting by Carolyn Cohn in London and Muvija M. in
Bengaluru; editing by Barbara Lewis)