In 1987 Malcolm, my accountant, said: “Barbara, you never have any money but you have this other property – you should be a Name at Lloyd’s.” I was hooked.
I started underwriting in 1988 with Sedgwicks and I have not regretted a minute of being part of this exciting market place. It is the world at your fingertips, a place of truly amazing relationships built over years, even centuries.
Many years ago I had been working in the City in stockbroking and merchant banking. Being a Name at Lloyd’s sounded like a wonderful way to be back in this much-loved life.
Malcolm introduced me to his Members Agent, whose offices were in a dingy little place in the West End. This did not strike me as where I wanted to be and I decided to embark on my own selection of Members Agents.
I was greatly helped by my long-departed Norwegian husband, whose ship-owning friends were all Lloyd’s members – although most of them had resigned, or were about to. Did they know something I didn’t?
However, having made up my mind that I wanted to join Lloyd’s, this august institution and one of the three pillars of the City, my search for a Members Agent took me to Hiscox, Kiln, Wellington and Sedgwicks.
Sedgwicks were the only ones who could offer capacity on their core syndicates; the others said they could not accommodate Names at that point of the cycle.
People may remember that there were no auctions at that time where one could buy capacity on a syndicate. Auctions were introduced by Bertie Hiscox only in 1995. It was the relationships of the Members Agents with the Underwriters of the various syndicates which led to members being offered capacity for free on a syndicate.
I often wondered what has attracted me to this market place – it must be my entrepreneurial spirit of saying “why not?”. I simply love people and admire their skills. For some years I did not know that one could also get a cheque from Lloyd’s instead of writing one, but somehow I managed to “muddle through”.
Thanks to funds at Lloyd’s being set at 25%, and to the increase in value of the London property at that time, I increased my underwriting four-fold to the maximum limit.
As you will remember, 1988 was the last year before all the problems surfaced – Spiral, Piper Alpha, asbestos. All at a time when Lloyd’s had attracted peak membership of more than 33,000 unlimited liability members. Lloyd’s only accepted corporate capital in 1993.
It struck me in the early 90s that if one is in Lloyd’s, one might as well play the full hock. Thanks to funds at Lloyd’s being set at 25%, and to the increase in value of the London property at that time, I increased my underwriting four-fold to the maximum limit.
This allowed me to trade through and I did not even need a contribution of Equitas due to the very beneficial claims years of the early 1990s. This taught me that in life it is all about being in the right spot at the right time and having the necessary bit of luck.
Since then I have managed to continue and am one of the very few unlimited liability Names left – we have now shrunk to fewer than 300, because these day one can only join Lloyd’s as a limited liability member.
For me Lloyd’s is the last remaining market place and home of the entrepreneurial spirit. I stood for Lloyd’s Council a few times, then decided to honour the people in the Lloyd’s market place by publishing The Lime Street Guide to Lloyd’s book in 2009, a tome of more than 600 pages which for the first time profiled and honoured the people behind the remarkable success of this august institution.
It was my thank-you to this great community and the first Directory ever. It was launched at the Rendez-Vous de Septembre in Monte Carlo in 2009 and has now become a collector’s item.
Since those early days The Lime Street Guide to Lloyd’s has achieved international recognition and can be found as far afield as Australia, Bermuda, Brazil, China, Dubai, France, Germany, India, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and the United States of America – as well as, of course, the Lloyd’s of London insurance market.
A continued focus on face-to-face interaction is one of the hallmarks of this close-knit organisation. The intimate working relationship in and between the market and the Corporation is, for me, one of the keys to the ongoing success of Lloyd’s.
My book showcased the fact that, while there may now be some large, sophisticated businesses operating alongside their much smaller brethren at Lloyd’s, the market place has remained very much a people’s business.
My aim is to give you an insightful and fun website and newsletter, highlighting and sharing what I find interesting as a member of Lloyd’s – both in its birthplace in the City of London and on my travels in the international world Lloyd’s inhabits. My focus has and will always be the people.
This is meant to be an active website and I look forward to hearing from you. Any suggestions you may have are gratefully received. I look forward to everyone’s contribution.
Member of Lloyd’s and Founder & Editor, Lime Street Publications