I had the great good fortune to be introduced in 1969 to Liliana Archibald, who in 1973 became the first lady broker formally admitted to the room, and I did what is now called an internship with her.
On my first day she told me that all the insurances her firm dealt with were international project and trade related and set me to read a handy volume, published by Gillett Brothers Discount House, called The Bill on London, which would, she promised, tell me what I needed to know in order to understand why insurance is even more crucial to international trade than the financing of it through bills of exchange – no insurance, no loan!
I joined the firm which was headed by Phillip Hine who later on the occasion of his 80th birthday was given a BMW motorbike with the largest engine then available. Under his, Liliana’s and other colleagues’ tutelage, I quickly learned the art of drafting bespoke slips with highly esoteric insuring clauses and conditions and I became hooked on Lloyd’s as an institution and how it worked, even though I was not permitted to broke there! Happily, there was no such restriction in the company market, where I could cut my teeth.
Soon a few Lloyd’s underwriters were wanting me to broke risks to them personally. This could of course have been achieved by meeting in their offices, but in addition to the ban on ladies being brokers in the room, there was a byelaw requiring all business to be brooked at the box. Reluctant to let tradition and byelaws get in the way of business, this was accommodated by means of a rather theatrical prop known as The Flasher’s Mac (which had obviously once belonged to a man of substantial height and girth) disguised in which I would be ushered by waiters up the side stairs in the ‘58 building to sit beside Ernie Williams, a much respected leader in the none-marine market on the gallery, who always greeted me with a cheery “Oh Hello Poppet”. Tim Sasse, an extraordinarily flamboyant underwriter, preferred my broking to him in his office in Lime Street, where he could happily indulge with cigars, frequent libation and his feet up on his oversized mahogany partners desk. His line could always, were he to insist, be confirmed at the box later by one of my male colleagues.
In 1975 I switched to buying insurance and joined a firm of ship builders, heavy engineers and marine salvors, in Canada. Much of the insurance programme was placed at Lloyd’s and I had many dealings with our various underwriters as well as the renowned and delightful Phil Froude head of claims at Janson Green in relation to some tricky claims under our B55 Builders’ Risks policies. Having returned to London I later joined what was then still The Corporation of Lloyd’s in the press/government affairs/publicity department. The Fisher Bill was going through Parliament, Lloyd’s brokers were seeking cover for many completely new exposures their clients were facing, and this was the heyday of Lloyd’s innovation. My duties included writing speeches for the chairmen – Peter Green, Ian Findlay and Peter Miller. The usual technique was for them to give me “sound bites” and it was my job to craft the “packaging and pegs” in the context of which the pearls of wisdom would be declaimed to maximum effect. But Lloyd’s at that time was not all plain sailing – I used to attend Lloyd’s Committee meetings where grievous matters such as Savonita, Sasse and Oakley Vaughan were debated at length. I began to love Lloyd’s not just as an institution, but also the immense diversity of those who actually were “The Market” – the intellectually gifted, the deeply honourable, the “Nice-But-Dims”, the chancers, bounders and coves alike, all exemplified “life’s rich pageant”.
The ability of the Lloyd’s subscription market to act at once, both competitively and collectively, to tackle challenging new exposures was unique. In those days, pre-Franchise Board and Underwriting plans, an underwriter could write on a whim whatever he fancied. And in those days many risks were written by followers pretty much on the strength of the respect and confidence that the risk leaders inspired. But with few controls it was not easy for syndicates to keep track of their overall liabilities and when things eventually went wrong, it happened on a truly cataclysmic scale; and many years later in 1995 I encountered another Chairman of Lloyd’s, David Rowland, when I joined the ever growing Lloyd’s Equitas Project team, led by the inspirational Heidi Hutter, working with solicitors Freshfields to develop the wording of the compulsory RITC contract and getting individual RITC contracts signed by all the affected 450 odd syndicates, separately for each open year of account, some 1200 odd separate contract documents! The scale of it was mind-blowing and I believe it was David Rowland’s personal passion for “The Market” which underpinned his conviction that a solution in the form of Reconstruction and Renewal must, and could, be found.
And now in 2018 looking forward to completing my 50th year in or associated with the market next year, I am still relishing being part of Lloyd’s.Twelve years ago I joined THB to work with its founder Vic Thompson one of the broking market’s truly honourable gentlemen, who set up his business in 1968, just one year before I first discovered the ever changing, ever fascinating world that is Lloyd’s of London.