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?”

Russia’s RDIF to boost investment deals in Saudi Arabia

Updated 17 January 2019

Russia’s RDIF to boost investment deals in Saudi Arabia

  • Fund's CEO Kirill Dmitriev leads a delegation of more than 20 Russian business figures to the Kingdom
  • The delegation discussed projects in oil refining, petrochemical, gas chemical and oilfield services

RIYADH: Russian sovereign wealth fund RDIF said on Wednesday it would significantly boost its investments deals with Saudi Arabia in 2019.

The fund’s CEO Kirill Dmitriev led a delegation of more than 20 Russian business figures to the Kingdom to discuss new projects.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih met Dmitriev in Riyadh and expressed his happiness on the progress they made in the talks and the cooperation between the two countries. 

“Its not only commercial cooperation, but we are also working on scientific research, and we have opened a research center in Moscow University,” Al-Falih said.

The minister said the Russian delegation will also meet officials from Saudi Basic Industries Corporation SABIC and mining company Ma’aden among other companies during their three day visit to the Kingdom.

The delegation discussed projects in oil refining, petrochemical, gas chemical and oilfield services sectors, a Russian Direct Investment Fund statement said.

Al-Falih added that the Russian side has started a rubber plant project in Al-Jubail with Total and Novomet.

RDIF already has a $10 billion investment partnership with the Saudi Public Investment Fun (PIF), with more than $2 billion already invested in projects.

“We extend our cooperation not only on oil cuts but to cooperate in oil services, technology, LG and petrochemicals,” Dmitriev said. “We believe Saudi Aramco can be one of the greatest partners of Russia.”

The CEO said they were continuing to cooperate with PIF in Saudi Arabia through a number of energy investments.

Russian companies are also keen to invest in the Kingdom’s planned $500 billion mega-city NEOM.

“We have companies that have interest to invest in NEOM, we would like to build a port in NEOM, it can be a big port,” Dmitriev said.