A century of risks: trains, planes and automobiles
Thu 18 Aug 2011
August 18 marks the hundredth anniversary of the 1911 Lloyd’s Act.
Aficionados of Lloyd’s history can read the whole act here, but in a nutshell, this legislation led Lloyd’s from marine to other forms of risks.
1911 is, appropriately, also the year when Lloyd’s wrote the first ever aviation policy, following its first US Motor Policy in 1907.
Return to coffee house roots
This Act made the range of business Lloyd’s does today – from property to aviation, casualty to energy - possible. 1911 signalled a return to our roots in Edward Lloyd’s 17th century coffee house. The merchants who gathered there may have concentrated on marine, but they weren’t averse to covering other issues from fire insurance, death by gin drinking and even, it is reputed, female chastity [source: Peter L Bernstein’s Against the Gods: the remarkable story of risk].
However, as the market moved out of the coffee shop to a more structured environment, it increasingly concentrated on marine trade, becoming synonymous, over the next two centuries, with the shipping industry.
With the industrial revolution, the world changed, and so did Lloyd’s. But not without a hefty push in the right direction from Lloyd’s luminary and legend, Cuthbert Heath. Heath was, ironically, the son of an admiral, yet he led Lloyd’s out of marine and on to land.
Heath’s deafness prevented him from following in his father’s footsteps, but the Navy’s loss was Lloyd’s gain. He was a man of firsts. The first Lloyd’s man to underwrite jewellers’ block, smallpox and burglary, he also reinvented reinsurance for the whole market.
Non-marine classes of business grew exponentially; soon non-marine was on a par with marine at Lloyd’s in terms of premium volumes and now marine accounts for just 7% of the gross premium written by the market, according to Lloyd’s Annual Report 2010:
By expanding the classes of business, Lloyd’s growth in the first half of the twentieth century was phenomenal. In 1913 there were 631 underwriting members of Lloyd’s. By 1956 that number was 4,177.
The rapid growth of the non-marine classes changed the shape of Lloyd’s. Prior to this, most underwriters wrote for their own account as sole traders. The largest of these “syndicates” would be no more than five or six Names.
The rapid growth of the non-marine market led to many marine underwriters wanting to participate in this business but these underwriters lacked the necessary expertise. So larger syndicates grew up.
Throughout the 1900s, more members joined as investors rather than with any intent personally to bind risks in the Room, and syndicates became the standard way to participate in the market. The events of the 1900s, led by Cuthbert Heath, laid the foundation stones for today’s market.