Lloyd’s of London reviews operations after losing $2.6 billion

People walk outside Lloyds of London's headquarters in the City of London. (Reuters)
Updated 01 August 2018

Lloyd’s of London reviews operations after losing $2.6 billion

  • Lloyd’s plans number of “workstreams”
  • Issues include costs of doing business, use of technology

LONDON: Lloyd’s of London is reviewing all aspects of its business, including its centuries-old structure, to ensure it is cost-competitive and responsive to both clients and members, especially after Britain leaves the EU, industry sources said.
The review, coming after a £2-billion ($2.64-billion) loss last year and the news in June that CEO Inga Beale will step down, goes to the core of the institution’s hybrid personality, senior insurers and other officials in London’s financial services sector said.
Lloyd’s has been holding board and other internal meetings and separate discussions with broader market participants on the best way forward, the officials said. Precize details of the review have not been disclosed, they said.
“A strategic review is being worked on,” said one financial services source, asking not to be named because he was not authorized to discuss it. Another source, a senior executive at a firm that supplies services to Lloyd’s members, said he understood that included looking at its unique structure.
“The most fundamental question is, what does Lloyd’s actually want to be?” the executive said.
At present, Lloyd’s is both a marketplace for its 80-plus syndicated members and an umbrella body that sometimes acts like an insurer by getting deeply involved in members’ day-to-day practices. It also regulates the members under the auspices of the UK government.
Asked whether Lloyd’s was conducting a strategic review, Chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown told Reuters on Monday he would not use that term.
“To me a strategic review implies some kind of crisis, where you’ve got to put everything into a big hat and end up boiling the ocean. We are not interested in that. What I think we have is a series of improvements and ideas,” he said in a telephone interview.
He said Lloyd’s was looking at all aspects of the business, however — cost structure, technology, its role as a marketplace and a regulator, and how it mutualizes risk. He said recommendations from an “annual strategy day” in June were presented to the board last week and a number of “workstreams” were being set up.
“I think what we need to do is to look at all aspects of what we do, to try to make sure everything we are doing is done better and turn it into more of an exercise to keep turning the stones over of the things that we do to figure out if we can make things more efficient,” he said.
Carnegie-Brown said he did not see Lloyd’s relinquishing its regulatory duties but said there were “whole aspects of regulation that we need to look at to make sure that we are not duplicating what is already done by other regulators.”
If Lloyd’s was a pure marketplace, member syndicates could be more innovative, accommodating short-term losses for future gains, industry sources said. Doing so would risk Lloyd’s losing the single-A credit rating that benefits all members, however.
“If it’s a marketplace, it’s for each party to come to the market, it’s for them to work out what they want to offer,” the senior executive said, while an insurer would incorporate the individual groups operating within it to form a company.
“I do not think it is being crystal clear which one it is, or wants to be.”
The UK government is keen that Britain, the world’s largest commercial insurance center, remains competitive in financial services after Brexit. Lloyd’s is setting up a subsidiary in Brussels to maintain access to Europe’s single market.
“Lloyd’s needs to ensure that London keeps its edge in insurance, which is vital for the wider financial future of London,” the financial services source said.
Lloyd’s started life in Edward Lloyd’s coffee house in 1688. The futuristic look of its 14-story headquarters in the City belies an emphasis on customs and tradition.
Most business is still conducted face to face. Underwriters and brokers use briefcases or suitcases to carry paperwork around the building; some marine insurers record the sinking of ships with quill pens. The requirement for men to wear ties was relaxed only recently.
The market was almost brought to its knees by asbestos-related claims in the 1990s, which wiped out many of its individual investors, known as “names.”
Members include small underwriters as well as listed UK firms like Beazley and Hiscox and units of global insurers, specializing in complex commercial risks such as marine, aviation and niche energy markets.
Julia Graham, deputy chief executive at insurance buyers’ association Airmic, said Lloyd’s has set up a working group with her client organization to discuss improving their relationship. She said Airmic regularly met Lloyd’s at board level but that a meeting this month was “a bit more intimate.”
“The main point is that they asked us,” she said. “Lloyd’s is still a leader. It’s important that it remains relevant.”
Last year’s two-billion-pound loss, the first in six years, followed a record year of insurance losses from natural disasters globally. London also faces competition from rivals like Bermuda and Singapore.
Lloyd’s will be looking at ways to cut members’ costs, which have ballooned as a result of increasing regulatory and compliance paperwork and rising commissions from brokers, industry sources said. The high costs of operating from London and administrative expenses have also weighed, they said.
A new electronic processing system introduced by Beale, the first female chief executive of Lloyd’s, was unpopular with smaller brokers and underwriters.
“If you are pushing it through an electronic system, there will be little scope for enhancements or individual treatment, which is what a lot of people come to Lloyd’s for,” said industry veteran Andrew Bathurst, director of London and Dubai insurance broker PWS Gulf and a director of Mystic Capital.
Whether to continue implementing the new system at the current pace — 30 percent of all business this year rising to 80 percent next year — is likely to be part of the review, two insurance sources said.
Lloyd’s insurers have an expense ratio of 40 percent, according to ratings agency AM Best, which Paul Merrey, a partner specializing in insurance at KPMG, said is about 10 percentage points higher than competitors.
“The costs of operating are getting out of hand” due to increased regulation, said one senior underwriting source. He agreed the biggest question mark was over structure, however: “What is Lloyd’s? Is it a market or is it an insurer?”


Gulf Marine CEO quits after review sparks profit warning

Updated 22 August 2019

Gulf Marine CEO quits after review sparks profit warning

  • Tensions in the Arabian Gulf, a worrisome global growth outlook and uncertainty over oil prices have recently dampened investor confidence

DUBAI: Gulf Marine Services said on Wednesday Chief Executive Officer Duncan Anderson has resigned as the oilfield industry contractor warned a reassessment of its ships and contracts showed profit would fall this year, kicking its shares 12 percent down.

The Abu Dhabi-based offshore services specialist said a review by new finance chief Stephen Kersley of its large E-class vessels operating in Northwest Europe and the Middle East pointed to 2019 core earnings of between $45 million and $48 million, below $58 million that it reported last year.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that Anderson, who has served as CEO for 12 years, was asked to step down. Anderson could not be reached for comment.

The company, which in the past predominantly operated in the UAE, expanded operations and deployed large vessels in the North Sea and Saudi Arabia nine years ago and listed its shares in London in 2014.

Tensions in the Arabian Gulf, a worrisome global growth outlook and uncertainty over oil prices have recently dampened investor confidence.

The North Sea has seen a revival in production in recent years due to new fields coming on line and improved performance by operators following the 2014 oil price collapse.

Still, the basin’s production is expected to decline over the next decade, according to Britain’s Oil and Gas Authority.

“(The CFO’s) review has coincided with a pause in renewables-related self-propelled self-elevating support vessels activity in the North Sea, which will impact several of the higher day-rate E-Class vessels,” Investec wrote in a note.

Gulf Marine appointed industry veteran Kersley as chief financial officer in late May as it sought to halt a slide which has seen the company’s shares fall nearly 80 percent last year and another 23 percent so far this year.

The company said market conditions remained challenging and that it was still in talks with its financial advisors regarding a new capital structure.

“Management, the new board and the group’s advisors, have been in negotiation with the group’s banks on resetting its capital structure and progress has been made,” it said in a statement.

Last year, Gulf Marine said contracts were delayed into 2019 as the company was seen to be in breach of certain banking covenants at the end of 2018.

The company said it was still in talks with its banks and individual lenders with hopes of getting a waiver or an agreement to amend the concerned covenants.