Lloyd’s of London reopens the building for the first time since March | Business


London’s Lloyd’s insurance market has reopened its underwriting room for the first time since March, making it the latest business in the city to move closer to normal amid the coronavirus pandemic.The 334-year-old institution welcomed underwriters and brokers to the building on Tuesday morning, as part of a gradual reopening that will mean 45% capacity until further notice to ensure compliance with the rules of social distancing.

This follows a sea change for members of Lloyd’s, who have traditionally relied on face-to-face deals but have had to conduct most business online or by phone since the market closed on March 19, ahead of the UK-wide lockdown.

The reopening was marked by climate protests, as activists called on union members to stop insuring coal and oil sands projects. Insure Our Future activists have signed contracts covering Australia’s Adani Carmichael coal mine project, Canada’s Trans Mountain oil sands pipeline, and reinsurance of Polish coal mines.

Securing our global future

Today, Assure Our Future stands outside @LloydsofLondon’s headquarters on Lime Street, as it reopens after COVID-19.

Our demands are clear. Lloyds – wash your hands of the coal and the tar sands.

Here’s why: 🧵 (1/11) pic.twitter.com/ubPrGhBVtV

September 1, 2020

Lloyd’s said that while it takes the climate crisis “extremely seriously” it has not established underwriting policies for its 90+ members. However, the market said it was “determined to build consensus” among members as part of the transition to a low carbon economy.

Lloyd’s – which typically hosts around 6,000 of its 45,000 workers, brokers and underwriters each day – will now rotate between insurance sectors throughout the week to manage capacity.

On Tuesdays, members involved in property, terrorism and construction insurance will be the first to speak, followed by the Navy and Air Force on Wednesday.

The market has also installed plexiglass barriers across the underwriting room with slots for contracts to be passed between brokers at what is known as the “box”, where transactions are finalized. Digital booths have been set up to contact members outside the building. Masks are compulsory throughout the building, except in the box.

Only three people will be allowed to board an elevator at a time, and its cafe is open to take out and pre-order food and drinks. Lloyd’s has made arrangements to improve cleaning throughout the day, perform swab tests every two weeks, and “mist” the building to kill bacteria and viruses every 30 days. The mist is intended to protect surfaces from contamination for up to one month.

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At the same time, Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) is relaunching mobile branch services and has started increasing the working hours of its mortgage advisors, as it enters “phase 3” of its Covid strategy.

According to a newsletter from LBG’s staff union, Accord, bankers will be able to organize more face-to-face meetings, which will be reserved for vulnerable clients, including those over 70 who might otherwise have difficulty accessing phones or to online banking. However, the union said staff who were uncomfortable with in-person meetings would not be required to do so.

Bank branch closures are now back on the table, after LBG put its cost-cutting and restructuring efforts on hold during the Covid-19 outbreak. Lloyds is continuing with plans to close 56 branches, originally announced in January, but the lender was unable to confirm how many jobs would be lost as a result. Relevant personnel were informed on Thursday.

Lloydst is examining its office space needs and exploring new ways of working after concluding that 50,000 of its 65,000 employees worked effectively from home during the pandemic. This could cause office workers to use the excess space in its branches in the future.


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