|Type||Insurance and reinsurance market|
Lloyd's of London, generally known simply as Lloyd's, is an insurance and reinsurance market located in London, United Kingdom. Unlike most of its competitors in the industry, it is not an insurance company; rather, Lloyd's is a corporate body governed by the Lloyd's Act 1871 and subsequent Acts of Parliament. It operates as a partially-mutualised marketplace within which multiple financial backers, grouped in syndicates, come together to pool and spread risk. These underwriters, or "members", are a collection of both corporations and private individuals, the latter being traditionally known as "Names".
The business underwritten at Lloyd's is predominantly general insurance and reinsurance, although a small number of syndicates write term life assurance. The market has its roots in marine insurance and was founded by Edward Lloyd at his coffee house on Tower Street in c. 1686. Today, it has a dedicated building on Lime Street within which business is transacted at each syndicate's "box" in the underwriting "Room", with the insurance policy documentation being known traditionally as a "slip".
The market's motto is Fidentia, Latin for "confidence", and it is closely associated with the Latin phrase uberrima fides, or "utmost good faith", representing the relationship between underwriters and brokers.
Having survived multiple scandals and significant challenges through the second half of the 20th century, most notably the asbestosis affair, Lloyd's today promotes its strong financial "chain of security" available to promptly pay all valid claims. As of 2019 this chain consisted of £52.8 billion of syndicate-level assets, £27.6bn of members' "funds at Lloyd's" and over £4.4bn in a third mutual link which includes the Central Fund.
In 2020 there were 76 syndicates managed by 50 managing agencies that collectively wrote £35.5bn of gross premiums on risks placed by 350 brokers. Of those premiums 53 per cent emanated from North America, 27 per cent from Europe and 20 per cent from the rest of the world. Direct insurance represented 65 per cent of the premiums, mostly covering property and casualty (liability), while the remaining 35 per cent was reinsurance.
The market began in Lloyd's Coffee House, owned by Edward Lloyd, some time in 1686 on Tower Street in the City of London. This establishment was a popular place for sailors, merchants, and ship-owners, and Lloyd catered to them with reliable shipping news. The coffee house soon became recognised as an ideal place for obtaining marine insurance. The shop was also frequented by mariners involved in the slave trade. Historian Eric Williams notes: "Lloyd's, like other insurance companies, insured slaves and slave ships, and was vitally interested in legal decisions as to what constituted 'natural death' and 'perils of the sea'." Lloyd's obtained a monopoly on maritime insurance related to the slave trade and maintained it until the early 19th century.
Just after Christmas 1691, the small club of marine insurance underwriters relocated to Lombard Street; a blue plaque on the site commemorates this. This arrangement carried on until 1773, long after the death of Edward Lloyd in 1713, when the participating members of the insurance arrangement formed a committee and underwriter John Julius Angerstein acquired two rooms at the Royal Exchange in Cornhill for "The Society of Lloyd's".
The Royal Exchange was destroyed by fire in 1838. It was rebuilt by 1844, but many of Lloyd's early records were lost in the blaze. In 1871, the first Lloyd's Act was passed in Parliament which gave the business a sound legal footing. Around that time, it was unusual for a Lloyd's syndicate to have more than five or six backers; this lack of underwriting capacity meant Lloyd's was losing many of the larger risks to rival insurance companies. A marine underwriter named Frederick Marten is credited for first identifying this issue and creating the first "large syndicate", initially of 12 capacity providers. By the 1880s Marten's syndicate had outgrown many of the major insurance companies outside Lloyd's.
A subsequent Lloyd's Act in 1911 set out the Society's objectives, which include the promotion of its members' interests and the collection and dissemination of information.
On 18 April 1906, a major earthquake and resulting fires destroyed over 80 per cent of the city of San Francisco. This event was to have a profound influence on building practices, risk modelling and the insurance industry.
Lloyd's losses from the earthquake and fires were substantial, even though the writing of insurance business overseas was viewed with some wariness at the time. While some insurance companies were denying claims for fire damage under their earthquake policies or vice versa, one of Lloyd's leading underwriters, Cuthbert Heath, famously instructed his San Francisco agent to "pay all of our policy-holders in full, irrespective of the terms of their policies". The prompt and full payment of all claims helped to cement Lloyd's reputation for reliable claim payments and as an important trading partner for US brokers and policyholders. It was estimated that around 90 per cent of the damage to the city was caused by the resultant fires and as such, since the 1906 fire following the earthquake, fire has generally been a specified insured peril under most policies. Heath is also credited for introducing the now widely used, "excess of loss" reinsurance protection for insurers following the San Francisco disaster.
Heath had become an underwriting member of Lloyd's in 1880, upon reaching the minimum age of 21, on J. S. Burrows' syndicate. Within a year he was underwriting for himself on a three-man syndicate; in 1883 he also opened a brokerage business. In 1885, he wrote the first fire reinsurance contract, reinsuring the Hand in Hand insurance company and marking the start of Heath's push to diversify the market into "non-marine" business. He also wrote Lloyd's first burglary insurance policy, its first "all risks" jewellery policy and invented "jewellers' block" cover. Later, during World War I he offered air-raid insurance, protecting against the risk of German strategic bombing.
In 1965 Lloyd's had around 6,000 members on 300 syndicates when Hurricane Betsy struck the Gulf of Mexico, costing the market over £50 million. The catastrophe halted the capital that hitherto had been pouring into Lloyd's, and twice as many members left between 1965 and 1968 as had left over the prior eight years. It was soon realised that the membership of the Society, which had been largely made up of market participants, was too small in relation to the market's capitalisation and the risks that it was taking on.
Lloyd's response was to commission a secret internal inquiry in 1968, headed by Lord Cromer, a former Governor of the Bank of England. This report advocated the widening of membership to non-market participants, including non-British subjects and then women, and the reduction of the onerous capitalisation requirements (thus creating a minor investor known as a "mini-Name"). The report also drew attention to the danger of conflicts of interest. The liability of the individual Names was unlimited, and thus all their personal wealth and assets were at risk.
During the 1970s, a number of issues arose which were to have significant influence on the course of the Society. The first was the tax structure in the UK: for a time, capital gains were taxed at up to 40 per cent (nil on gilts); earned income was taxed in the top bracket at 83 per cent, and investment income in the top bracket at 98 per cent. Lloyd's income counted as earned income, even for Names who did not work at Lloyd's, and this heavily influenced the direction of underwriting: in short, it was desirable for syndicates to make a (small) underwriting loss but a (larger) investment gain. The investment gain was typically achieved by "bond washing" or "gilt stripping": selling the gilt or other bond cum dividend and buying it back ex-dividend, thus forfeiting the interest income in exchange for a tax-free capital gain. Syndicate funds were also moved offshore (which later created problems through fraud and self-dealing).
Because Lloyd's was a tax shelter as well as an insurance market, the second issue affecting it was an increase in its external membership: by the end of the 1970s, the number of passive investors dwarfed the number of underwriters working in the market. Third, during the decade a number of scandals had come to light, including the collapse of F. H. "Tim" Sasse's non-marine syndicate 762, which had highlighted both the lack of regulation and the lack of legal powers of the Committee of Lloyd's (as it was then) to manage the Society.
The collapse of the Sasse syndicate came after it wrote a "binding authority" in 1975 that delegated underwriting authority to Florida-based expatriate Dennis Harrison to write property and fire risks through his Den-Har Underwriters agency, even though Den-Har was not an approved Lloyd's coverholder (a fact noticed neither by Sasse nor Lloyd's Non-Marine Association). Den-Har had suspected Mafia links and many of the risks written were rigged: typically dilapidated buildings in slums such as New York's south Bronx, which soon burned down after being insured for large sums.
Once the three-year Lloyd's accounting period passed, the 110 Names on syndicate 762 were told they faced substantial losses, from mostly fraudulent claims. Sasse's reinsurer, the Instituto de Resseguros do Brasil (IRB), refused to pay its share of the fraudulent losses. The Names (few in number for such large losses) took legal action and ultimately paid only £6.25m of c. £15m of Den-Har claims under the 1976 year, leaving the Corporation of Lloyd's to pay the remainder. The Corporation also paid the near £7m loss for 1977.
Sasse had also been one of 57 underwriters on other syndicates that wrote loss-making "computer leasing" policies in the late 1970s. These claims ultimately ran above $450m, wiping out more than half the entire market's profit in a single year.
Problems also developed out of the Oakley Vaughan agency run by brothers Edward and Charles St George, which had written far more business than its capacity allowed in order to invest premium to take advantage of high interest rates. By writing swathes of business regardless of whether the premiums were adequate, the St Georges left their Names with serious losses. Lloyd's had commissioned investigations into Oakley Vaughan, but investigators were denied access to the books and relied only on reassurances that the agency was profitable.
Arising simultaneously with these developments were wider issues: first, in the US, an ever-widening interpretation by the courts of insurance coverage in relation to workers' compensation for asbestosis-related claims, which created a huge hole in Lloyd's loss-payment reserves, which was initially not recognised and then not acknowledged. Second, by the end of the decade, almost all of the market agreements, such as the Joint Hull Agreement, which were effectively cartels mandating minimum terms, had been abandoned under pressure of competition. Third, new specialised policies had arisen which had the effect of concentrating risk: these included "run-off" policies, under which the liability of previous underwriting years would be transferred to the current year, and "time and distance" policies, whereby reserves would be used to buy a guarantee of future income.
In 1980, Sir Henry Fisher was commissioned by the Council of Lloyd's to produce the foundation for a new Lloyd's Act. The recommendations of his report addressed the "democratic deficit" and the lack of regulatory muscle.
The Lloyd's Act of 1982 further redefined the structure of the business and was designed to give external Names, introduced in response to the Cromer report, a say in the running of the business through a new governing Council. The main purpose of the 1982 Act was to separate the ownership of the managing agents of the underwriting syndicates from the ownership of the broking houses (which acted as intermediaries, not as underwriters), with the objective of removing conflicts of interest.
Immediately after the passing of the 1982 Act, evidence came to light and internal disciplinary proceedings were commenced against a number of underwriters who had allegedly siphoned money from their syndicates to their own accounts. These individuals included a deputy chairman of Lloyd's and some of its leading underwriters. Successful marine underwriter Ian Posgate was expelled under suspicions but later acquitted of criminal charges; his name remained tarnished and he did not return to the market, retiring to run his Oxfordshire farm until his death in 2017. A greater debacle arose when Peter Cameron-Webb and Peter Dixon, of PCW Underwriting Agencies, allegedly defrauded their business of some $60m through rigged reinsurance transactions and fled to the United States and never returned.
The emergence of fraud at PCW was the first in a series of events that led to the resignation of the Lloyd's chairman Sir Peter Green in 1983. Lloyd's was later forced to make a settlement with the roughly 3,000 Names on the various PCW syndicates involved and to reinsure their liabilities into a new syndicate, number 9001, in turn reinsured by a unique vehicle named Lioncover, which was set up as a Lloyd's subsidiary insurance company. Lioncover assumed the liabilities under PCW and its associated underwriting agencies in 1987. In 1988 it also assumed the 1967-1969 liabilities under Cameron-Webb's syndicates 2 and 49. Dixon and Cameron-Webb remained at large in the US; Cameron-Webb reportedly died in 2004 in a nursing home in California.
Lloyd's also faced action from Names on C. J. Warrilow's syndicate 553, which had chronically exceeded its underwriting capacity in the early 1980s and failed to adequately reinsure the huge quantity of risks it was taking on. The solution was to create a new company in 1990 into which these liabilities could be reinsured and the Warrilow Names relieved. This entity was named Centrewrite and it assumed Warrilow's 1985 and prior years' liabilities, separately also offering "estate protection plans" (EPPs) for resigned Names. Tens of thousands of Lloyd's Names bought these reinsurance policies from Centrewrite. It still exists today but no longer sells EPPs and conducts little other business; most recently it reinsured the 1997-1999 years of the troubled Crowe syndicate 1204, the 1999-2001 years of the collapsed Cotesworth syndicate 535, and the 2001 year of life syndicate 1171. In 2012 the Cotesworth and Crowe liabilities (then valued at just over £17m) were novated. Minimal liabilities remain in Centrewrite from Warrilow, most of which are reinsured out.
In 1986, the year Lloyd's moved into a new building at 1 Lime Street (where it remains today), the British government commissioned Sir Patrick Neill to report on the standard of investor protection available at Lloyd's. His report was produced in 1987 and made a large number of recommendations, but was never implemented in full.
It has long been normal for one Lloyd's syndicate to reinsure another, but when Piper Alpha, a North Sea oil rig, exploded on 6 July 1988 causing an initial $1.4bn loss, the practice had become so widespread that the underwriters in Lime Street initially had no idea how extensive their exposure was: the loss was passed around in what became known as the London market excess of loss (LMX) "spiral" and claim values escalated out of control.
The rig's operator, Occidental Petroleum, bought a direct insurance policy from Lloyd's underwriters, who then passed part of their shares of the risk on to other syndicates via reinsurance. Those reinsurers then in turn reinsured part of the risk out to other reinsurance underwriters within Lloyd's (known as "retrocessionaires"), and so on. Consequently, many syndicates, especially those writing a large amount of excess of loss reinsurance, became exposed to the same claim multiple times through multiple layers in the spiral. Other catastrophes, including Hurricane Hugo and the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, also went into the spiral.
Some of the leading LMX reinsurers at the time that suffered serious spiral losses included the numerous syndicates managed by the Gooda Walker agency, Devonshire syndicate 216, Rose Thomson Young 255, R. J. Bromley 475, and Patrick Feltrim Fagan's already challenged syndicates 540 and 542. Gooda Walker syndicate 298 became the first fatal casualty, with 13,500 policies being exposed to the Piper Alpha disaster alone and its 1989 account producing a 650 per cent loss on capacity; Feltrim 540 followed with a 550 per cent loss ratio. Roy Bromley of syndicate 475 later committed suicide, having been dismissed by his Board and reportedly becoming distressed at his operation's mounting losses.
Not all excess of loss writers succumbed to the LMX spiral; in fact the spiral was relatively confined to a minority of such syndicates. Among the prominent reinsurers that remained profitable throughout the spiral were C. F. Palmer syndicate 314, M. H. Cockell 269/570 and D. P. Mann 435, while G. S. Christensen 958 reported only a slight loss in 1989 but healthy profits in 1990 and 1991.
The early to mid-1990s saw the continuation of Lloyd's most traumatic period in its history that had begun with the explosion on Piper Alpha. Unexpectedly large legal awards in US courts for punitive damages led to substantial claims on asbestos, pollution and health hazard (APH) policies, some dating as far back as the 1940s. Many of these policies were open-peril policies, meaning that they covered any claim not specifically excluded. Other policies (called standard, or broad) only cover stated perils, such as fire.
The classic example of "long-tail" insurance risks is asbestosis/mesothelioma claims under employers' liability or workers' compensation policies. An employee at an industrial plant may have been exposed to asbestos in the 1960s, fallen ill 20 years later and claimed compensation from his former employer in the 1990s. The employer would report a claim to the insurance company that wrote the policy in the 1960s. However, because the insurer did not fully understand the nature of the future risk back in the 1960s, it and its reinsurers would not have properly priced or reserved for it. In the case of Lloyd's, this resulted in the bankruptcy of thousands of individual investors who indemnified general liability policies written from the 1940s to the mid-1970s for companies with exposure to asbestosis claims.
It may not be immediately clear how current members of current Lloyd's syndicates, which accept business one year at a time, could be liable to pay historical claims. This came about as a result of the Lloyd's accounting practice known as reinsurance to close (RITC).
A member "joined" a syndicate for one calendar year only, known as the "annual venture". At the end of the year, the syndicate as an ongoing trading entity was effectively disbanded. However, usually the syndicate re-formed for the next calendar year with the same identifying number and more or less the same membership. Since claims can take time to be reported and then paid, the profit or loss for each syndicate took time to realise. The practice at Lloyd's was to wait three years (that is, 36 months from the beginning of the year in which the business was written) before "closing" the year for accounting purposes and declaring a result.
To calculate the profit or loss, reserves were set aside for future claims payments, for claims that had already been notified but not yet paid, as well as estimated amounts for claims that had been incurred but not reported (IBNR). This estimation is difficult and can be inaccurate; in particular, long-tail liability policies tend to produce claims long after the policies are written.
The reserve for future claims liabilities was set aside in an unusual way. The syndicate bought a RITC policy to pay any future claims; the premium was equal to the amount of the reserve. This transaction allowed the year to be closed, and the syndicate's profit or loss declared. The reinsurer was always another Lloyd's syndicate(s), often the succeeding year of the same syndicate: the members of syndicate '1' in 1985 reinsured the future claim liabilities for members of syndicate '1' in 1984. The membership might be the same, or it might have changed.
In this manner, liability for past losses could be transferred year after year until it reached the current syndicate. A member joining a syndicate with a long history of such transactions could - and often did - pick up liability for losses on policies written decades previously. As long as the reserves had been accurately estimated, and the appropriate RITC premium paid every year, then all would have been well, but in many cases this had not been possible: no-one could have predicted the surge in APH losses. Therefore, the amounts of money transferred from earlier years by successive RITC premiums to cover these losses were grossly insufficient, and the current members had to pay the shortfall.
As a result, a great many Names whose syndicates wrote long-tail liability at Lloyd's faced significant financial loss or ruin by the late 1980s to mid-1990s.
It was alleged that in the early 1980s some Lloyd's officials began a recruitment programme to enroll new Names to help capitalise Lloyd's prior to the expected onslaught of APH claims. This allegation became known as "recruit to dilute": in other words, recruit more Names to dilute the losses. When the huge extent of asbestosis losses came to light in the early 1990s, for the first time in Lloyd's history large numbers of members either were unable to pay the claims or refused, many alleging that they were the victims of fraud, misrepresentation, and/or negligence. The opaque system of accounting at Lloyd's made it difficult, if not impossible, for many Names to understand the extent of the liability that they personally and their syndicates had subscribed to.
Also, numerous underwriters of long-tail non-marine business, concerned at their exposures to the impending asbestosis crisis, had sought to reinsure their liabilities with other carriers. Twenty syndicates, including Lloyd's deputy chairman Murray Lawrence's, paid millions of pounds in premiums to Richard H. M. Outhwaite to assume approximately 80 per cent of the market's asbestos exposure on his syndicate 317. This ended in disaster for Outhwaite's Names, whose previously healthy profits were wiped out and then some.
Another asbestosis-hit operation, Pulbrook syndicates 90/334, had taken out reinsurance in 1981 on its general liability business with Merrett syndicate 418; however, in 1990 Stephen Merrett (who by now controlled Pulbrook) won an arbitration ruling to void that arrangement due to non-disclosure of the extent of asbestos exposure, leaving the Pulbrook Names without cover for their losses of £100,000 each on average. Even earlier, in 1974, the underwriter of R. W. Sturge syndicate 210, Ralph Rokeby-Johnson, who specialised in American industrial risks, bought "stop-loss" reinsurance from Fireman's Fund and Kemper Insurance in the US on Sturge's pre-1969 exposures that were accumulating into the present. This contract developed so poorly that Fireman's Fund later sought its own stop-loss cover for the losses assumed from Sturge. Rokeby-Johnson later prompted Lloyd's to create a working party on asbestosis.
During the mid-1990s the market was forced to restructure. Under the chairmanship of Sir David Rowland and chief executive Peter Middleton, an ambitious plan entitled "Reconstruction and Renewal" (R&R) was produced in 1995, with proposals for separating the ongoing Lloyd's from its past losses. Liabilities for all pre-1993 business (other than life assurance) were to be compulsorily transferred (by RITC) into a special vehicle named Equitas (which would require the approval of the UK's Department of Trade and Industry) at a cost of around $21bn. Many Names faced large bills, but the plan also provided for a settlement of their disputes, a tax on recent profits, and the write-off of nearly $5bn owed in the form of "debt credits", skewed towards those with the worst losses. The plan was debated at length, modified, and eventually strongly supported by the Association of Lloyd's Members (ALM) and most leaders of Names' action groups. New CEO Ron Sandler was instrumental in its implementation. Money was raised in many ways, including the sale and leaseback of the Lloyd's building, and a tax on future business. Individual offers of settlement were accepted by 95 per cent of Names. The past liabilities on the 1992 and prior years were transferred to Equitas in September 1996, including those under Lioncover and Centrewrite.
The "recruit to dilute" fraud allegations were heard in an eight-month trial in 2000 in the case Sir William Jaffray & Ors v. The Society of Lloyd's and were rejected by the judge; an appeal was heard in 2002 and unanimously rejected. On each occasion the allegation that there had been a policy to recruit to dilute was dismissed and Names were urged to settle; however, at first instance the judge described the Names as "the innocent victims [...] of staggering incompetence" and the appeal court found that representations that Lloyd's had a rigorous auditing system were false and strongly hinted that one of Lloyd's main witnesses, former chairman Murray Lawrence, had lied in his testimony.
Lloyd's then instituted some major structural changes: corporate members with limited liability were permitted to join and underwrite insurance; no new unlimited-liability Names were allowed to join (although a few hundred existing ones remained); financial requirements for underwriting were changed, to prevent excess underwriting that was not backed by liquid assets; and market oversight significantly increased. Lloyd's rebounded and started to thrive again after the catastrophic losses arising out of the World Trade Center attack, but it faced increased competition from newly-created companies in Bermuda and other markets.
In 2006 the Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary National Indemnity Company (NICO) agreed to assume all of Equitas' assets and liabilities, providing $7bn of new reinsurance cover for future claims payments in addition to the $8.7bn of existing reserves within Equitas. The transfer (in two phases between 2007 and 2009) represented "finality" under English law for all affected Names, who now faced "no further liability whatsoever" to the pre-1993 losses.
Lloyd's is not an insurance company; it is a market of members. As the oldest continuously active insurance marketplace in the world, Lloyd's has retained some unusual structures and practices that differ from all other insurance providers today. Originally created as a non-incorporated association of subscribing members, it was incorporated by the Lloyd's Act 1871 and is currently governed under the Lloyd's Acts of 1871 through to 1982.
Lloyd's itself does not underwrite insurance business, leaving that to its members. Instead, the Society operates effectively as a market regulator, setting rules under which members operate and offering centralised administrative services to those members.
The Lloyd's Act 1982 defines the management structure and rules under which the market operates. Under the Act, the Council of Lloyd's is responsible for the management and supervision of the market. It is regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority.
The Council normally has six working, six external and six nominated members. The appointment of nominated members, including that of the chief executive officer, is confirmed by the Governor of the Bank of England. The working and external members are elected by Lloyd's members. The chairman and deputy chairmen are elected annually by the Council from among the working members of the Council. All members are approved by the regulating bodies.
The Council can discharge some of its functions directly by making decisions and issuing resolutions, requirements, rules and bylaws. The Council delegates most of its daily oversight roles, particularly relating to ensuring the market operates successfully, to the Franchise Board.
The Franchise Board lays down guidelines for all syndicates and operates a business planning and monitoring process to safeguard high standards of underwriting and risk management, thereby improving sustainable profitability and enhancing the financial strength of the market. The Board is chaired by the chairman of Lloyd's and has three executive members, three non-executives connected to the market and five independent non-executives.
The following is a list of the chairmen of Lloyd's since 1979:
|o 1979-83: Sir Peter Green||o 1984-87: Sir Peter Miller||o 1988-90: Murray Lawrence|
|o 1991-92: David Coleridge||o 1993-97: Sir David Rowland||o 1998-00: Max Taylor|
|o 2001-02: Sax Riley||o 2003-11: Lord Levene||o 2011-17: John Nelson|
|o 2017-present: Bruce Carnegie-Brown|
The following is a list of the chief executive officers of Lloyd's since 1983:
|o 1983-85: Ian Hay Davison||o 1985-92: Alan Lord||o 1992-95: Peter Middleton|
|o 1995-99: Ron Sandler||o 1999-06: Nick Prettejohn||o 2006-13: Richard Ward|
|o 2013-18: Inga Beale||o 2018-present: John Neal|
There are two classes of people and firms active at Lloyd's. The first are members, or providers of capital. The second are agents, brokers, and other professionals who support the members, underwrite the risks and represent outside customers (for example, individuals and companies seeking insurance, or insurance companies seeking reinsurance).
For most of Lloyd's history, rich individuals known as Names backed policies written at Lloyd's with all of their personal wealth and took on unlimited liability. Since 1994, Lloyd's has allowed corporate members into the market, with limited liability. The asbestosis losses in the early 1990s devastated the finances of many Names: upwards of 1,500 out of 34,000 Names (4.4 per cent) were declared bankrupt. This scared away other potential Names. In 2011 individual Names provide only 11 per cent of capacity at Lloyd's, with UK-listed and other corporate members providing 30 per cent and the remainder via the international insurance industry. No new Names with unlimited liability are admitted, and the importance of individual Names will continue to decline as they slowly withdraw, convert (generally into limited liability partnerships), or die. In 2014, Names with unlimited liability provided just 2 per cent of the overall capacity in Lloyd's.
Managing agents sponsor and manage syndicates. They canvas members for commitments of capacity, create the syndicate, hire underwriters, and oversee all of the syndicate's activities. Managing agents may run more than one syndicate, as borne out in the fact that in 2017 the 85 syndicates were operated by just 56 managing agents.
Members' agents co-ordinate the members' underwriting and act as a buffer between Lloyd's, the managing agents and the members. They were introduced in the mid-1970s and grew in number until many went bust; many of the businesses merged, and there are now only four left (Argenta, Hampden, Alpha and LMAS, which has no active Names). It is mandatory that unlimited Names write through a members' agent, and many limited liability members also choose to do so.
Coverholders are a major source of business for Lloyd's. Their numbers have grown steadily in recent years and in 2015 there were 4,008, producing an increasingly meaningful share of the market's overall premium income. The balance of Lloyd's business is distributed around the world through a network of brokers.
Coverholders allow Lloyd's syndicates to operate in a region or country as if they were a local insurer. This is achieved by Lloyd's syndicates delegating their underwriting authority to coverholders. A coverholder can have restricted or full authority to underwrite specified business on behalf of a Lloyd's syndicate. It will usually issue the insurance documentation and will often also handle claims. The document setting out the terms of the coverholder's delegated authority is known as a binding authority.
Outsiders, whether individuals or other insurance companies, cannot transact business directly with Lloyd's syndicates. They must hire an approved Lloyd's broker, who are the only customer-facing organisations at Lloyd's. They are therefore often referred to as intermediaries. Lloyd's brokers shop customers' risks around the syndicates, trying to obtain the best coverage and most competitive terms.
When corporations became admitted as Lloyd's members, they often disliked the traditional structure. Insurance companies did not want to rely on the underwriting skills of syndicates they did not control, so they started their own. An integrated Lloyd's vehicle (ILV) is a group of companies that combines a corporate member, a managing agent, and a syndicate under common ownership. Some ILVs allow minority contributions from other members, but most now try to operate on an exclusive basis.
Lloyd's capital structure, often referred to as the "chain of security", provides financial security to policyholders and capital efficiency to members. The Corporation is responsible for setting both member and central capital levels to achieve a level of capitalisation that is robust and allows members the potential to earn superior returns.
There are three "links" in the chain: the funds in the first and second links are held in trust, primarily for the benefit of insureds whose policies are underwritten by the relevant member. Members underwrite for their own account and are not liable for other members' losses (i.e. liabilities are several, not joint).
The third link consists largely of the Lloyd's Central Fund, which contains mutual assets held by the Corporation which are available, subject to Council approval as required, to meet any member's liabilities. As well as the Central Fund, the third link contains Corporation assets, subordinated debt, and a "callable layer" which can be invoked should the final link require topping up.
Each Lloyd's syndicate is responsible for determining how much money to hold in reserve for its known liabilities and its estimated unknown liabilities, and each may choose to release some of its reserves for prior-year claims if it (and its independent auditors) deems it appropriate. Conversely, reserves may need to be strengthened if prior-year loss estimates deteriorate. Overall reserve releases can improve the syndicate's "accident year" combined ratio (the sum of the loss ratio and the expense ratio), whereas overall reserve increases can worsen the accident year combined ratio. The combined ratio after these reserve movements is known as the "calendar year" result.
Lloyd's worst results in its long history were in the 1989 through 1991 years, each producing overall losses of over £2bn; the late 1990s were also punctuated by repeated and significant underwriting losses. In 2001 the calendar year result was a 140 per cent combined ratio, driven largely by claims arising out of the World Trade Center attack, reserve increases for prior-year liabilities and deteriorating pricing levels. However, the market subsequently enjoyed profitability in most years except those marked by unusual levels of large natural catastrophes. For example, the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season (which included Hurricane Katrina) drove the Lloyd's overall combined ratio to 112 per cent, while the 2017 Atlantic hurricanes coupled with destructive wildfires in California caused the Lloyd's market to report a 114 per cent combined ratio result in that year.
In its most recent annual report, for 2020, Lloyd's reported an underwriting loss of £2.68bn, partly offset by a £2.27bn gain on investments to produce an overall pre-tax loss of £887m, compared to an overall pre-tax profit of £2.53bn in 2019. The 2020 calendar-year combined ratio was 110.3 per cent, up from 102.1 per cent in 2019. The underwriting result was impacted predominantly by losses arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as multiple Atlantic hurricanes, a severe derecho in the United States, the explosion in Beirut and a number of other major events. Gross premiums written totalled £35.47bn, which was a slight decrease from £35.91bn in 2019, without taking exchange rate fluctuations into account.
The 2020 result marked Lloyd's fourth consecutive underwriting loss, despite the 16th consecutive year of prior-year reserve releases improving the accident-year result, this time by 1.8 percentage points.
The following table details some key financial metrics for the Lloyd's market for the past nine years, as reported in each year's annual report:
|Year||Gross premiums written||Combined ratio
|Pre-tax profit/(loss)||Pre-tax ROC||Ref|
Lloyd's syndicates write a diverse range of policies, both direct insurance and reinsurance, covering property, casualty, marine, energy, motor, aviation and many other types of risk. Lloyd's also has a unique niche in unusual, specialist business such as kidnap and ransom, fine art, specie, aviation war, satellites, personal accident, bloodstock and other insurances.
Lloyd's is famous for writing policies to cover famous, unusual, or bizarre events. For example, Lloyd's has insured:
United States gun control advocates have accused Lloyd's of providing "murder insurance" because it underwrites several types of National Rifle Association-endorsed firearms policies, including for gun shows and personal liability insurance that covers criminal and civil defence suits. The NRA-endorsed personal liability policies are unusual, as insurance policies rarely cover costs from criminal prosecution. Gun control supporters argue that these policies could increase gun violence as they have the potential to reduce the negative consequences of firing a gun, similar to "stand-your-ground" laws.
According to the owner of Appalachian Promotions, which organises gun shows in several US states, Lloyd's is "the NRA's choice" for gun shows and "there's usually nowhere else to get it for gun shows." Critics have accused Lloyd's of enabling the "gun show loophole" and "aiding and abetting the black market in handguns."
New York state regulators are investigating the marketing of these "self-defense" insurance policies.
The COVID-19 pandemic spawned a large number of lawsuits against multiple insurance companies globally, alleging or seeking confirmation of coverage for claims relating to the outbreak. The majority of claims sought coverage for "business interruption" after many governments forced most businesses to close; typically, however, such claims are only covered if caused by a "physical loss".
Lloyd's was among many insurers targeted by such suits. Examples included the owner of a restaurant chain who sought confirmation of cover in the Texas courts for his claim under a $1m "pandemic insurance" policy that was marketed to cover against a "pathogen-related business interruption event". The policyholder's claim was reportedly denied because the specific disease in the matter, COVID-19, was "not a named disease" (the policy did however name "SARS-associated coronavirus"). In Florida the owner of a sports bar filed a similar claim seeking confirmation of coverage under his business interruption policy, which included the usual "physical loss" requirement and in Louisiana a restaurateur also sought a legal declaration that his "all-risks policy" afforded coverage since it did not explicitly exclude losses caused by a pandemic.
Lloyd's initially estimated the cost of the pandemic to the global insurance industry at $200bn, the Lloyd's share being reported in its 2020 annual report at approximately $8.5bn primarily driven by event cancellation, property and travel losses.
In June 2020 during the George Floyd protests, Lloyd's issued a statement, apologizing "for the role played by the Lloyd's market in the 18th-and 19th-century slave trade--an appalling and shameful period of English history, as well as our own." This referred to its role in insuring the Atlantic slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The present Lloyd's building, at 1 Lime Street, was designed by architect Richard Rogers and was completed in 1986. It stands on the site of the old Roman Forum. The 1925 building's facade survives, appearing strangely stranded with the modern building visible through the gates on the northern side on Leadenhall Street. In 2011 it became a listed building.
In the main Underwriting Room of Lloyd's stands the Lutine bell, which was struck when the fate of a ship "overdue" at its destination port became known. If the ship was safe, the bell would be rung twice; if it had sunk, the bell would be rung once. (This had the practical purpose of immediately stopping the sale or purchase of "overdue" reinsurance on that vessel.) Nowadays it is only rung for ceremonial purposes, such as the visit of a distinguished guest, or for the annual Remembrance Day service and anniversaries of major world events.
Brokers and underwriters are still normally held to, and apparently prefer, a more formal style of attire than many nearby City of London banks and financial institutions.