LONDON (Reuters) – Clear screens on underwriting boxes, temperature-check thermal cameras and a click and collect take-away catering service are among changes Lloyd’s of London insurance workers will see when they return to the office in September.
Having shut its London “underwriting room” in March in response to the coronavirus pandemic — the first closure of physical trading in the commercial insurance market’s 330-year history — Lloyd’s confirmed on Wednesday its doors would re-open on a new-look environment.
Staff capacity will shrink to 45% to ensure social distancing, there will be regular deep cleans, queueing and one-way systems — all designed to limit the potential spread of the deadly virus, Lloyd’s Chief Executive John Neal said.
Lloyd’s, which started life in Edward Lloyd’s coffee house in 1688 and has remained a face-to-face market ever since, is now turbo-charging a planned switch to electronic trading.
It plans to establish a “virtual room” and is testing a number of digital platforms to allow brokers and underwriters to connect, Neal said.
There will be a help desk, or “connectivity bar” on the ground floor, digital booths with souped-up WiFi and digital screens in the cafe and other areas for confidential meetings and network connectivity has also been enhanced.
Lloyd’s’ 90-plus syndicate members, separately-run firms under the market’s umbrella, underwrite many of the world’s largest commercial insurance deals, from oil rigs to pop concerts.
Brokers and insurers have long met in the underwriting room of Lloyd’s City of London tower to agree deals, which are sealed with company stamps and ink signatures.
But since its closure, industry players have been surprised at how smoothly the technology has worked. Videocalls are replacing hours on planes going to meetings to places such as North America, Lloyd’s’ biggest market.
Figures from PPL, an existing electronic trading platform which will form the basis for one of two electronic exchanges Lloyd’s plans to launch next year, showed the number of deals completed nearly doubled in the week ending June 8 compared with four months earlier, to 3,040.
(Reporting by Carolyn Cohn and Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)