Denial from nice white men innocent of harassment has to end if Lloyd’s is to repair its reputation

Ten years ago I dropped off my eldest child at a Saturday morning class with a group of other kids in our neighbourhood.  

As it was the first in a series, the person in charge made a quick announcement about the ground rules. Parents had to drop off at 10am and almost under pain of death had to make sure they were back to pick up their progeny before a drop-dead cut-off point of midday.  

Why the fuss? The person in charge explained that at midday his assistants had to leave and his organisation would not allow him to be unsupervised in a room with children. If we didn’t show up on time, he would have to dismiss our kids into the street to fend for themselves. 

What organisation could this be? And what classes? You may be surprised that it was the UK Catholic Church, the classes were for first communion and the man in charge was a priest.  

A full decade ago the Catholic Church had set up far-reaching risk management procedures in response to a horrendous series of paedophile priest scandals. As a consequence, the church is now one of the safest environments for children it is possible to imagine.  

But the church’s reputation is still in tatters, and justifiably so. 

The foul historical revelations keep coming and truth and reconciliation is going to take generations to achieve. The decades of complacency and denial that preceded the breaking of the first scandals meant that the problem accumulated and almost engulfed the institution.  

Its reputation will take even longer to repair.  

It is impossible to prove a negative. When the church says that today it has every system and control in place to prevent the abuse of minors, its poor reputation means it is hard to believe and trust even its most solemn words. 

Now that the London insurance market is in the spotlight for its own failings, it should learn from the above experience. Market leadership has firmly grasped the nettle already but there is a cohort of the rank and file that is in denial and needs to get on board. 

Continued denial will only make the reckoning worse when it does come. This is a strand of incredulity that tends to emanate from really nice white men who have genuinely not witnessed nor practised discrimination and certainly no abuse of any kind in their careers.  

The problem is that they make the mistake of assuming that because they haven’t seen or experienced bad behaviour at first hand, it can’t exist.  

The first Bloomberg article back in March might have been easy for some to dismiss as it made so few concrete allegations, but yesterday’s follow-up was far more specific and hard hitting. 

The reputational damage is already being done and there is very long road ahead. The market is to be lauded for taking the first steps to repair this damage, but it should be under no illusions that matters are likely to get far worse before they get better.  

This is likely to be just the beginning of a series of reputation-sapping stories.  

Everyone has to be in for a long and rough ride. The time for denial has long past and the time for action is now, particularly for those who persist in failing to see the nature of the problem.  

By the time they realise that reputational damage affects everyone’s prospects equally, the problem could be exponentially worse.  

Now is the time for even the most demographically average to engage with the process.  

Lloyd’s major ongoing culture consultation and our own Insider Progress event next week are two excellent places to start.  

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