Lloyd's of London's first female CEO to leave in 2019

LONDON (Reuters) - Lloyd’s of London Chief Executive Inga Beale, the commercial insurance market’s first female CEO, will leave next year, Lloyd’s said on Friday.

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Beale’s departure from the centuries old insurance market comes amid concerns that despite a modernisation drive it is losing ground to rival centres such as Singapore and failing to stem losses.

The exact date of her departure has not yet been set but the search for her successor is already underway, Lloyd’s said in a statement, following an earlier report in The Insurance Insider.

“Leading Lloyd’s is an honour and I am proud to have played a part in ensuring that it remains relevant and fit for purpose for the future,” Beale said in the statement.

Lloyd’s of London, which started life in Edward Lloyd’s coffee house in 1688, focuses on specialised insurance risks, from oil rigs to footballers’ legs.

Beale was appointed chief executive in January 2014 and has led a push for a more diverse workforce in the market, which is made up of more than 80 insurance syndicates.

Beale has also encouraged a move to electronic processing, with plans to ditch most paper trades by the end of next year. Insurance staff traditionally carry their documentation around the 14-storey Lloyd’s building in the City of London in briefcases or even suitcases.

“Her boldness and persistence have generated the momentum required to bring about real change,” Bruce Carnegie-Brown, who became chairman last year, said in the statement.

Lloyd’s is reviewing costs after a series of natural catastrophes drove it to a 2 billion pound ($2.63 billion) loss last year, and is asking syndicates to provide action plans for their least profitable areas of business.

A report last year showed the London insurance and reinsurance markets were losing out to other centres such as Bermuda and Singapore.

“(Beale) has tried to push through change and more transparency with the new platforms and has come up against resistance from traditional segments of the market,” said one financial services source.

“There is a real need for change, given the threats from other places to London’s position.”

An insurance source said he hoped that Lloyd’s would appoint “another imaginative and ideally female CEO - but it will probably be another bloke with braces”.

Additional reporting by Jonathan Saul in London and Justin George Varghese in Bengaluru; editing by Simon Jessop and Louise Heavens