(Bloomberg) — Lloyd’s of London CEO John Neal condemned what he termed shocking sexual harassment in the insurance industry after a survey showed that eight per cent of its members had witnessed such behaviour in the last year alone.
In the survey of about 6,000 passholders to the Lloyd’s insurance exchange, only 41 per cent of those who raised a concern said they were listened to or taken seriously, and more than one in five respondents said they had seen people in their organization turn a blind eye to inappropriate behaviour.
Even more damning, Lloyd’s said that women’s answers reflected a more negative experience than men’s for every question.
Lloyd’s commissioned the survey after a Bloomberg Businessweek investigation uncovered evidence of endemic sexual harassment at the world’s oldest insurance market, including inappropriate comments, unwanted touching and sexual assault.
The women Bloomberg interviewed said their employers — some of the world’s biggest insurers and brokers — turned a blind eye to the near-constant stream of bad behaviour they suffered. The few who complained to their firm’s human resources department were usually talked out of pursuing their grievances after being told that it would hurt their career prospects to do so.
“The results are shocking, unacceptable and require robust action immediately,” Neal said in a phone interview. “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.”
Nearly a quarter of respondents said they had seen people drink too much while less than half would be comfortable blowing the whistle on poor conduct in the market. Lloyd’s didn’t ask people whether they had experienced harassment, nor did it provide a gender breakdown for the individual questions.
In response to Bloomberg’s article, Lloyd’s set up an independent whistleblower hotline, introduced lifetime bans for inappropriate behaviour and banning those under the influence of alcohol or drugs from the building. Lloyd’s also shut down a bar that used to be under their building and turned it into a cafe.
“We’ve been pretty clear right back to March that we will take action in the event that an individual or organization was not behaving to the standards that we expect,” said Neal . “We will hold the market to account.”
To date, Lloyd’s has temporarily removed the passes of two people for misconduct and is reviewing a third case. No one has had their pass stripped permanently.
This isn’t the first time that Lloyd’s executives have tried to stamp out harassment in the marketplace and bring business practices into the 21st century. Former CEO Inga Beale tried to redirect the industry after becoming the first woman to lead the exchange in 2014, but she was met with resistance at every step.
Neal, her replacement at the helm, said that this time would be different: “I think the shock of this data will galvanize our market participants to act. It should remove any niggling doubt in their mind that there isn’t an issue to address.”
Neal says that he wants demonstrable progress within the next 12 months, but that it could take three years to get to where he wants the market to be.