Lloyd's of London's bosses must set an example as harassment claims rock the market

The market has released the results of a survey of its employees. It makes for fairly grim reading with one in 12 workers having witnessed incidences of harassment over the past 12 months 

James Moore
Chief Business Commentator
Tuesday 24 September 2019 12:52
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An unpleasant place to work? Lloyd's of London has released the results of survey of its workers
An unpleasant place to work? Lloyd's of London has released the results of survey of its workers

Lloyd’s of London looks like a pretty unpleasant place to work. You don’t have to take my word for that. Just take a look at the results of a survey the market conducted among the people that have that, shall we say, misfortune.

Some 6,000 people responded. One in 12 of them reported having witnessed incidents of sexual harassment during the last 12 months. One in five don’t believe employees have equal opportunities. It should be stated that women’s responses were more negative than those of men.

And there's more. Nearly half (45 per cent) said they wouldn’t be comfortable with raising concerns about improper conduct. Some 38 per cent said they didn't even know who they might approach. Two in five of those that did know, and raised concerns, didn’t feel they were listened to.

Nearly a quarter said they’d witnessed excessive boozing, two in five per cent said they felt under excessive pressure to perform, more than a fifth reported negative impacts on their health from their work.

The market's issues were first brought to light through a Bloomberg report in which an atmosphere of “near persistent harassment” was described by several women who worked or who had worked there. Since then there has been a steady drip feed of negative headlines.

CEO John Neal says that he is determined to tackle the issues the reports, and the survey, have raised.

To that end, there is a five point action plan, a gender balance plan, which includes targets, standards of business conduct have been outlined for individuals and companies that do business at Lloyd’s. An advisory group charred by one of its directors, Fiona Luck, will hear from “leading experts on different aspects of cultural transformation”. A campaign to encourage people to speak up is underway.

So lots going on. Busy, busy, busy.

But the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

An institution like Lloyd’s, with a long history and a deeply engrained “old school” City of London culture, is not going to change easily.

A good start would be for miscreants to be jumped on as swiftly as possible, always bearing in mind that the law has to be respected as even Boris Johnson has had to learn.

This might cause people who are rarely under paid to at least think about the way they conduct themselves.

Particularly relevant to Neal are the sections of the survey devoted to leadership. They aren't very flattering.

It found that one in six respondents don’t believe their organisation’s top people take responsibility, especially when things go wrong. More than a fifth have seen bosses turning a blind eye to bad behaviour.

It has been noted that A$550,000 (£300,0000) of Neal’s bonus was withheld while he was running Australian insurer QBE as a result of his failure to disclose a romantic relationship with his executive assistant.

The company’s annual report declared that “some recent personal decisions by the CEO have been inconsistent with the board's expectations”.

While the two are now married, that's not a good look given where his current employer has found itself.

To his credit, however, Neal didn’t throw a hissy fit when I raised the issue with him. More to the point, he also made it clear that his bonus, and those of other senior managers at the market, will take a hit as a result of these findings and if the market doesn't shape up in future.

So it should. This is an institution that badly needs its leadership to set an example.

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