LONDON (Reuters) – The 330-year old Lloyd’s of London market will shut its underwriting floors on Friday for a day in a test of emergency protocols related to the coronavirus, Chief Executive John Neal said on Thursday.
This would be the first time in its history that Lloyd’s has shut its underwriting floors, where brokers and insurers agree deals face-to-face, Neal told a media call.
Lloyd’s, whose members insure specialist risks from ships to sculptures, will carry out a deep clean of the four floors that make up the physical insurance market while it is shut, Neal said.
The decision to shut the so-called “underwriting room”, which is used by nearly 50,000 employees in the Lloyd’s of London market, comes after the coronavirus epidemic was officially classed as a pandemic, with cases in Europe and the United States and government responses rising.
“Things have changed very significantly in the past week,” Neal said, adding that Lloyd’s wanted to “test in anger” how the market would cope with restrictions on gatherings.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair an emergency meeting on Thursday at which he is expected to approve moving to the “delay phase” of the coronavirus response that includes more stringent measures to counter the outbreak.
Neal said there were no confirmed coronavirus cases at the Lloyd’s of London Corporation and he had not been told of any cases at member firms.
Insurers can carry out underwriting business elsewhere while the market is shut, including through electronic placement.
Reporting by Carolyn Cohn, editing by Sinead Cruise