Lloyd’s of London, the 300-year-old insurer that takes on complex risks from ships to oil rigs and the legs of soccer players, is pondering whether to bail out of its famed London headquarters now that flexible working seems here to stay.
The world’s largest commercial insurance firm said it could move out of its “inside-out” building home of 36 years, according to the Daily Mail. “As we adapt to new structures and flexible ways of working, we are continuing to carefully think about the future requirements for the spaces and services our marketplace needs,” the firm said in an email.
Lloyd’s has been a historic anchor at the Lime Street tower, designed by British architect Richard Rogers and opened in 1986 by Queen Elizabeth. While its lease expires in 2031, the firm has a break clause in 2026 that could allow it to fly its coop sooner.
This could present a problem for China’s Ping An Insurance Group, which bought the building in 2013 for the equivalent of $352 million. Historic protections limit modifications to make it suitable for another tenant.
Named for its external elevator shafts, staircases, water pipes and machinery, the building was designed to house Lloyd’s of London in the heart of the British capital..
Its soaring atrium floods floors of workers with light from its barrel-vaulted roof of painted latticed steel and glass.
Below, brokers once streamed into its ground floor Underwriting Room, to be met by underwriters who evaluated, priced and sized up risks from “boxes” whose origins harken back to when Edward Lloyd rented out table space from his coffee shop in 1686.
From a mahogany rostrum, a bell salvaged from the HMS Lutine, which sank in 1799 carrying £1m in gold and silver bullion insured by Lloyd’s, rings whenever another ship goes missing.
In the pandemic era, many of Lloyd’s desks remain empty after staff began working from home. The crisis also spurred automation, shifting business away from its underwriting floor.
A move by Lloyd’s from the historically protected landmark, which drew dozens of insurers to set up shop in surrounding towers, could also alter the landscape of the business district.
[Daily Mail] – Dana Bartholomew