Thousands of London’s underwriters took their fountain pens and stamps home last week, which they utilize to sign insurance contracts; however, they won’t need them.
Working at home because of the coronavirus shutdown, they’ve deserted the conventional tools of their business and are turning to email and other digital systems to agree on terms with the brokers who put business their way.
It’s a huge shift from a typical day at Lloyd’s of London in the center of the capital’s financial district, where underwriters witness queues of brokers at their desks to haggle over terms, before sealing the deals with an old school firm stamp and an ink signature.
With the shutdowns of the underwriters’ floor, the world’s leading commercial insurance market, Lloyd’s – which began life in Edward Lloyd’s’ coffee house in 1688 – has gone entirely online for the first time.
The shutdown might prove a watershed moment. If the move goes off without any significant hitches, it will possibly smooth the way for the market to go far more digital, underwriters and brokers stated.
So the mass working from home is effectively a test of the enterprise’s prospects for long-term survival as it appears to cut prices and modernize in the face of overseas rivalry.