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Home / Insurance / London's financial district, riddled with slavery, confronts its past

London's financial district, riddled with slavery, confronts its past



(Reuters) – British ships sail over 3 million slave African people across the Atlantic. Lloyd & # 39 ;s of London insured many of these vessels, the people chained under deck, sometimes categorized as "perishable goods", along with cattle, by market guarantees.

Lloyd's involvement in the transatlantic slave trade is not part of the market's permanent exhibition at its modernist city tower, but it will change.

“The legacy of slavery is racism. You can not do what you have to do to make slavery work if you do not make the enslaved people less than human, says Nick Draper, a former banker at JPMorgan who was the founding director of the Center for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery . at University College London

“We did it based on ethnicity, race and skin color. It is embedded in British and European culture ̵

1; that's what we're working on now.

Together with other financial institutions in London, the insurance market has been forced to confront its racist past after last year's Black Lives Matter protests.

Lloyd & # 39 ;s and the Bank of England have each hired historians to delve into their roles in the slave trade and plan to publish the results next year.

The exhibits will shed light on the fortunes of a barbaric system and the role of some of the city's most revered greats in keeping it afloat, including people like John Julius Angerstein, known as "the father of Lloyd & # 39; ; s. "

The 18th-century industrial titan was chairman of the market when much of his business was based on the slave trade, and Lloyd & # 39 ;s says there is evidence to suggest that he was the caretaker of goods in the Caribbean who kept enslaved people .

His portrait hangs in the market

President Bruce Carnegie-Brown wants Lloyd & # 39 ;s to be ahead of his past, but he does not want paintings removed.

"I would rather tell the story than interrupt them," he told Reuters. [19659002] The African-Caribbean Insurance Network, set up to increase black and ethnic minority representation in the London insurance market, disagrees. It said companies should review "organizational artifacts and remove all with racist connotations", according to recommendations made to the London market last year.

ACIN founder Junior Garba, an Lloyds underwriter, said it was better to place artifacts in museums.

"We can not ignore history. We can explain it, we can educate."

Deep roots

The roots of the slave trade are deep and broad in London's famous institutions.

Mr Angerstein's art collection, including works by Rubens, Raphael and Rembrandt, formed the core of London's National Gallery when it was founded.

The gallery does not mention Angerstein's links to the slave trade on its website. It is said that he belonged to the committee for Relief of the Black Poor, an organization with abolitionist interests.

In an email to Reuters, The National Gallery said they were working with LBS to clarify the links between slave ownership, art collection and philanthropy in the UK and will publish first results later this year. Angerstein will be included in that study.

According to research by Draper, Angerstein was "a beneficiary of slavery in the marine insurance business on which he based his career and fortune." There is no evidence that he was a slave trader.

A decision on what to do with the portraits of Angerstein and other prominent Lloyds' names will be made after Victoria Lane, former archivist at Shakespeare's Globe Theater, completes her review.

Ms Lane, who started working for Lloyd last month, trawls art, swords, silver and documents on the market. Lloyds refused to make her available for interview.

The Bank of England removed 10 portraits and busts of former governors and directors linked to the slave trade earlier this year and plans to explain its role in an exhibition at its museum next year, a spokesman said.

Statues of two politicians with links to the slave trade appear to remain in the Guildhall, London's ceremonial center, following an earlier decision to remove them.

This week, the Municipal District Financial Authority will discuss a report recommending the retention of monuments by two Ice Mayor William Beckford and merchant John Cass, who both made fortune from slavery, with "explanatory plaques or messages" next to them.

The report says that over 2000 responses to two consultations showed "low demand" for removing statues.

Legacy

Europe's sugar colonies in the Caribbean were built on slave labor from Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries and London City was the financial center of transatlantic human trafficking.

Historians estimate that between one and two thirds of the British maritime insurance market was based on the slave trade in the 18th century, in particular insuring ships returning to Europe with plantation products.

Lloyd & # 39 ;s was one of three major 18th century British marine insurers. The other two, Royal Exchange and London Assurance, were later included in the insurance companies Axa and RSA.

Axa apologized for his connection to the slave trade and said that it worked to make its workplace more inclusive.

The RSA said that there were aspects of its history that "do not reflect the values ​​we have today", adding that the company was determined to fight injustice.

The legacy of the slavery industry remains, experts say.

Fewer than 1 in 10 management roles in financial services are held by black, Asian or other ethnic minorities, according to a discussion paper published by UK regulators in July.

The Bank of England has set a target of 18-20% of top executives being Black, Asian and minority ethnic in February 2028, compared to 8.2% in November 2020.

The lack of progress in diversifying the city puts pressure on the Financial Conduct Authority to act and it said in July that salaries for senior executives may need to be l inked to employment improvements.

ACIN recommends insurance companies to set goals for ethnic minority representation at higher levels.

Only 2% of the nearly 50,000 strong Lloyd & # 39 ;s in the London insurance market are Black. It has an "ambition" that a third of all new employees come from ethnic minorities.

"Legacy is part of the answer," said Oliver Kent-Braham, co-founder of digital insurance company Marshmallow.

"What is it? The important thing is that companies make sure that they really have impartial interview processes that are not heavily weighted towards junior levels … make sure that companies hire everywhere."


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