Insurers Drawn into Slavery Debate

The Lloyd’s market and RSA have become the first insurance entities in the UK to become publicly shamed for their historical links to the slave trade.

University College London (UCL) has issued details of a database it has compiled of leading corporate figures which were recompensed for the freeing of slaves by the UK.

Leading banks and a brewery were also publicly named and the likelihood is that more insurers will come under the microscope for their actions during the slave trade.

UCL revealed one founder subscriber and one former chairman of Lloyd’s are listed as claimants or beneficiaries in its database, and four others are listed as having links to estates on which slaves were used. They include founder subscriber Simon Fraser, who was the former owner of the Castle Bruce estate in Dominica, who was paid compensation valued at £397,451 today.

Five company directors and a governor of London Assurance, which was merged into Sun Insurance in 1959 and eventually became RSA Insurance in 2008, are named as claimants or beneficiaries by the university. In total, five former companies associated with RSA have links to claimants or beneficiaries in the UCL database.

An RSA spokesman said: “RSA’s origins in insurance date back well over 300 years, with many parts of our business founded in the 17th and 18th centuries. While this has brought positive things that have shaped us, there are aspects of that history that don’t reflect the values we hold today.”

“We will continue to work with our employees to tackle racism and other injustices wherever we encounter them through our actions.”

Lloyd’s has issued a far more expansive statement and pledged it would be donating to BAME charities.

“At Lloyd’s we understand that we cannot always be proud of our past,” it said. “In particular, we are sorry for the role played by the Lloyd’s market in the eighteenth and nineteenth century slave trade – an appalling and shameful period of English history, as well as our own. In acknowledging our own history, we also remain committed to focusing on the actions we can take today to shape our future into one that we can truly be proud to stand by.

“Over the last week we have listened carefully to our Black and Ethnic Minority colleagues in the Lloyd’s market. We have heard their frustrations, and it is clear that we must commit now as a market to take meaningful and measurable action. “

As part of a number of steps the market will take is the pledge to invest in “positive programmes to attract, retain and develop Black and Minority Ethnic talent in the Lloyd’s market, including launching our ‘Accelerate’ Programme – a modular programme to develop Ethnic Minority Future Leaders across the market.”

It will also provide financial support to charities and organisations promoting opportunity and inclusion for Black and Ethnic minority groups.

While Lloyd’s and RSA are currently in the media spotlight it is likely that the focus will spread given the role of insurers in providing cover for vessels and businesses involved in and benefiting from the slave trade.

There are sure to be many boardrooms which are currently discussing whether to publish their role, if any, in supporting the slave trade to pre-empt the inevitable media coverage that will come with outside attention on their historical actions.

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