Nearly one in 10 Lloyd’s workers have witnessed sexual harassment

An unimpressed female businesswoman

A damning survey into the culture of sexual harassment at Lloyd’s of London has revealed that at least eight per cent of employees have witnessed sexual harassment over the past year

The extensive independent survey was carried out following a number of complaints about a culture of sexism and bullying at the London insurance marketplace. Indeed, ITIJ reported on the issue earlier this year, after a report from Bloomberg into sexual harassment at Lloyd’s led to the 333-year-old institution announcing an action plan intended to reduce levels of drinking, which it believed were a major factor in instances of sexual misconduct. Unfortunately, it does not appear that this action plan is yet having the desired effect.

The Banking Standards Board carried out the survey, which was open to responses from all of the nearly 50,000 individuals who work at Lloyd’s; around 6,000 people participated, suggesting that the real numbers could very well be significantly higher than those presented in the official report.

Female workers reported inappropriate comments and even physical attacks, while one in five respondents said that they did not feel that Lloyd’s offered them equal opportunities – regardless of their gender. Twenty-five per cent said that they had seen excessive alcohol consumption over the past 12 months, while 22 per cent said that they had personally witnessed personnel ‘turn a blind eye’ to unprofessional and predatory behaviour. Less than 50 per cent of respondents said that they would feel comfortable raising their concerns about such behaviour.

“The results are shocking, unacceptable and require robust action immediately,” said CEO John Neal. “I expected disappointing results on sexual harassment and excessive alcohol consumption, but the stats and levels of complaint are higher than I would have imagined.”

While Lloyd’s has responded to the survey by announcing a number of measures to tackle the problem, including a gender balance plan and new standards of business conduct, the quote from Neal does not necessarily inspire confidence. After all, if senior figures were already sufficiently aware of the problem to ‘[expect] disappointing results’ – even if the results ended up being much worse than they imagined – why were such measures not being put in place already? It does not necessarily speak to an appropriately serious attitude to a very serious problem. The Banking Standards Board’s assessment of Lloyd’s is truly damning, indicating a culture of rampant intimidatory, sexist behaviour, and nothing less than a sea change in attitudes will be sufficient to repair the venerable market’s reputation.

“This report comes at an important time,” said Christopher Croft, CEO of LIIBA. “There is no place for bullying or harassment in our marketplace and the expectations are rightly that our market will work collectively to address incidence of poor behaviour.” LIIBA, he said, is taking the initiative ‘very seriously’ and working with its members and business partners to make concrete improvements, including running workshops on workplace culture and inclusive behaviour.

Welcome words indeed – and of course the initiatives that Lloyd’s has announced are essential, if somewhat late in the day. But, as Jennette Newman, a partner at Clyde & Co and President of London FOIL, rightly states: “[This] survey shows how badly change is needed if the market is to thrive. Over one-fifth of people turning a blind eye on inappropriate behaviour is unsustainable. Fewer than half feeling able to raise concerns, or confident they will be heard, smacks of the last century not this one.”