Just a day after Lloyd’s of London announced a plan it said would address allegations of sexual harassment made in an article by Bloomberg, the topic has been raised again in a fiery manner.
During the Q&A portion of a press briefing for Lloyd’s 2018 results, chief financial officer John Parry was questioned by journalists about the Bloomberg story and if there was a culture of harassment towards women at Lloyd’s.
The story, based on the accounts of 18 women, included descriptions of the historic institution as a “meat market”, as well as telling tales of how women were referred to as “box bitches” and ranked between 1-10 on their looks.
Even more worrying in the story were reports of sexual assault, with women claiming they were not able to make complaints about what happened to them.
Following the presentation from Parry on the results, in which Lloyd’s announced a loss of £1 billion, questions quickly pivoted away from the numbers to the organisation’s culture.
In response to questions Parry claimed, contradictory to the Bloomberg story, that Lloyd’s had “taken the lead” on taking a stand against the bad behaviour in recent years.
“The first thing to say is that we take that incredible seriously, and we say, and we have said again this week, that there is no place at Lloyd’s whatsoever for inappropriate behaviour of any type,” the CFO said.
“I say Lloyd’s has taken the lead on some of this over the last few years. But clearly from what we’ve been reading, what we’ve been hearing over the last few days there’s still some appalling behaviour in the market that we need to stamp out.”
Parry did acknowledge that Lloyd’s needs to do more, and that there was an action plan that had been agreed to by the Lloyd’s Board and Council.
“One of the things that has become clear from the press and from individual conversations that various people here have had is that we’ve got to get better at creating safe spaces for people to report,” he said. “So, we are setting up an independent mechanism - that could be phone, that could be web, that could be something else, where people can report those incidences.”
Bloomberg had previously said that the mechanism was going to be an independent whistleblower hotline.
Parry also stressed that there would be consequences for anyone going forward, regardless of where they work.
“We’re also being very clear that anybody who is found to have a case to answer should and will face sanctions from their own company, but on top of that they will face sanctions from Lloyd’s,” he explained.
“And those sanctions could be anything from a fine to a temporary or lifetime ban from the underwriting room.”
When questioned on how many people had previously faced sanctions for inappropriate behaviour, no specific answer could be given by Lloyd’s. “I can’t tell you,” Parry said.
When pushed, Parry said that he was prepared to discuss the issue in private, but would not give answers to the press. The head of communications for Lloyd’s also stepped in to say the company would not be discussing individual cases.
“We’ve given you the answer you’re going to get,” Parry said. “We’re not evading the question, we’re saying that every instance we’ve become aware of we’ve taken appropriate action and we will continue to do that.”
The theme of the exchange can be summed up by an earlier statement by Parry.
“There are some individual things we’re doing as well, but under the umbrella we’re attacking this with very strong statements that this is not acceptable,” he said.
Now it may be suggested, it’s time for the strong statements to be backed with strong actions.