LONDON (Reuters) - Most business on the Lloyd’s of London insurance market will be negotiated electronically by the end of next year, its chief executive Inga Beale said on Monday.
The largest commercial insurance market in the world still runs a trading room where thousands of brokers gather daily to negotiate contracts.
“It is predominantly done on paper and yet we know that’s not sustainable in today’s world,” Beale told the annual CityWeek conference.
“We have a huge modernization effort, but I am not doing a big bang and shutting down the underwriting room like the stock exchange did to go digital over 30 years ago.”
She has already mandated that 30 percent of trading must be done digitally by the end of this year, and the aim is to hit 80 percent by the end of next year, she said.
Many of the wholesale insurers who operate on the Lloyd’s market “are with us on this,” Beale added.
Lloyd’s, which started life in Edward Lloyd’s coffee house in 1688, has been losing business to emerging markets such as Singapore in recent years.
Beale said there was a need to focus on new markets and diversify away from traditional strongholds like the United States.
Lloyd’s has had a base in China for a decade, a country that is forecast to become the world’s second-largest insurance market by 2020. Business there, however, is still at a “very early stage”, Beale said.
Lloyd’s obtained a license last year to operate in India.
“We are also looking at Africa. I was out in Casablanca recently where we are going to be opening up in Casablanca Finance City, and we are looking at that as a gateway to north and west Africa,” she said.
Lloyd’s has recently opened a representative office in Colombia, South America.
Additional reporting by Carolyn Cohn; Editing by Mark Potter