I don’t know economics. That’s why I am taking an international economics and trade course. A lot of it is over my head. But I do understand politics and some law and governance and that sort of thing. I also understand aesthetically pleasing architecture, which was the highlight of my visit to Lloyd’s.
Lloyd’s is an insurance market. Or, according to their quick guide brochure, “The world’s leading specialist insurance market, conducting business in over 200 countries and territories worldwide – and is often the first to insure new, unusual or complex risks.”
It all started with coffee really. Three hundred years ago in London, the thing to do was go out and have coffee and watch other people drink it too. It was very much a social affair. These coffee houses were often associated with larger businesses. The Edward Lloyd’s coffee house was the place to go to find insurance for ships and boats. Or, according to the brochure, “A place where shipowners could meet people with capital to insure them.”
What happens at Lloyd’s is the process of negotiating and signing for the risk. “Brokers bring business into the market on behalf of clients, other brokers and intermediaries. As with any market, brokers shop around to see which syndicates can cover their specific risk – and on what terms,” according to the brochure. Lloyd’s has an approach in which individual needs are met, rather than one getting an “off-the-shelf” package.
The system is kept somewhat traditional in which a paper book of losses is kept and written in with a quill pen. But of course they have computers and all sorts of modern technology.
According to my guide, a quarter of the world’s ships are insured at Lloyd’s. And they insurance many other sort of items from antique cars to Microsoft to works of art to film stars to footballers to the 2012 Olympics to rock stars. I’d say the most fascinating thing they’ve insured is a pink water skiing elephant, which appeared in Honky Tonk Freeway.
What I liked most about Lloyd’s, however, was the architecture of the building. It was built by Richard Rogers and was constructed “inside out.” The buildings gears and cranks are exposed and are primarily on the outside. The inside hosts an open office space built with exposed steel and lots of glass. It’s certainly a gem that shimmers.