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Saturday, August 1, 2020

the bell is rung ! ~ Lutine and Lloyds - ringing sound !

In the broad  corridors of the Red Building of Hindu High School, the walk of the attender would attract the attention of students inside the class room – before it even sounds, some would ready to fly away….  It was the sweet sound of school bell – #not physically a  bell# – but that of a metal hammered with a wooden object, creating enough sound audible to the locality.  Such bells are missing now in schools perhaps !    

A bell is a directly struck idiophone percussion instrument. Most bells have the shape of a hollow cup that when struck vibrates in a single strong strike tone, with its sides forming an efficient resonator.  Bells can be found everywhere. As the tallest structures on the city skyline allowed an unobstructed delivery of sound that performed functions beyond the call to worship, bells were seen atop. 

Such is the power of a bell that all those within hearing distance would live and work to its metre and, in kind, have their identity defined by it.  At Lords and later at Eden Gardens, bell would ceremonially be stuck before the start of a Test match.
Lloyd's of London, generally known simply as Lloyd's, is an insurance and reinsurance market located in London, United Kingdom. Unlike most of its competitors in the industry, it is not an insurance company; rather, Lloyd's is a corporate body governed by the Lloyd's Act 1871 and subsequent Acts of Parliament. It operates as a partially-mutualised marketplace within which multiple financial backers, grouped in syndicates, come together to pool and spread risk. These underwriters, or "members", are a collection of both corporations and private individuals, the latter being traditionally known as "Names".  The business underwritten at Lloyd's is predominantly general insurance and reinsurance, although a small number of syndicates write term life assurance. The market has its roots in marine insurance and was founded by Edward Lloyd at his coffee house on Tower Street in c. 1686. Today, it has a dedicated building on Lime Street within which business is transacted at each syndicate's "box" in the underwriting "Room", with the insurance policy documentation being known traditionally as a "slip".

The market's motto is Fidentia, Latin for "confidence", and it is closely associated with the Latin phrase uberrima fides, or "utmost good faith", representing the relationship between underwriters and brokers. Having survived multiple scandals and significant challenges through the second half of the 20th century, most notably the asbestosis affair, Lloyd's today promotes its strong financial "chain of security" available to promptly pay all valid claims. At the end of 2019 this chain consisted of £52.8 billion of syndicate-level assets, £27.6bn of members' "funds at Lloyd's" and over £4.4bn in a third mutual link which includes the Central Fund. In 2019 there were 80 syndicates managed by 54 managing agencies that collectively wrote £35.9bn of gross premiums on risks placed by 335 brokers.

Peeping back history, Lutine was a frigate which served in both the French Navy and the Royal Navy. She was launched by the French in 1779. The ship passed to British control in 1793 and was taken into service as HMS Lutine. She sank among the West Frisian Islands during a storm in 1799.  She was built as a French Magicienne-class frigate with 32 guns, and was launched at Toulon in 1779. During the French Revolution, Lutine came under French Royalist control. On 18 December 1793, she was one of sixteen ships handed over to a British fleet at the end of the Siege of Toulon, to prevent her being captured by the French Republicans.

In October 1799 she was employed in carrying about £1.2 million in bullion and coin (equivalent in value to £119 million in 2020), from Yarmouth to Cuxhaven in order to provide Hamburg's banks with funds in order to prevent a stock market crash and, possibly, for paying troops in North Holland. In the evening of 9 October 1799, during a heavy northwesterly gale, the ship under Captain Lancelot Skynner, having made unexpected leeway, was drawn by the tidal stream flowing into the Waddenzee, onto a sandbank in Vlie off the island of Terschelling, in the West Frisian Islands. There, she became a total loss. All but one of her approximately 240 passengers and crew perished in the breaking seas.

The gold was insured by Lloyd's of London, which paid the claim in full. The underwriters therefore owned the gold under rights of abandonment and later authorised attempts to salvage it. However, because of the state of war, the Dutch also laid claim to it as a prize of war.  F.P. Robbé, the Receiver on Terschelling, was authorised in 1799 to begin salvage operations.  In 1821, Robbé's successor as Receiver at Terschelling, Pierre Eschauzier successfully petitioned King William I and by royal decree received the sole right to attempt the further salvage of the cargo of the English frigate, the Lutine. In return, the state would receive half of all recoveries. Eschauzier and his heirs therefore became the owners of the wreck by royal decree and thus are known as the 'Decretal Salvors'.

With passage of years, Lloyd's records were destroyed by fire in 1838, and the actual amount of the gold lost is now unknown. Many attempts were made to recover the cargo with limited success, but in 1858 the bell of the ship was recovered from an entanglement of chains and eventually came to be hung in Lloyd's underwriting room in the Royal Exchange. When Lloyd's moved to Leadenhall Street, and then to Lime Street where it is today, the bell moved with it. The bell had a very important purpose at Lloyd's. When overdue ships came in safely, the bell was rung twice to sighs of relief from the underwriters. If a ship was lost, the bell would ring once. This way, everyone knew the fate of the ship and the cargo they had insured at the same time. When a ship went down, an entry was also made in a log book, of which there are now many preserved in storage at Lloyd's, though one historic copy is always on display beneath the bell.

That prized possession is ‘Lutine Bell’  — it's almost luminescent, its gilded coat shining brightly against the contrasting beautifully carved dark wood structure around it.  It was rung when Twin towers collapsed and again recently when Lloyd’s marked the closure of its London underwriting room by ringing the Lutine Bell. The market announced earlier this week that it would shut its underwriting room at 4pm on 19 March in response to the coronavirus crisis.   Closed in a post on LinkedIn, Lloyd’s wrote: “Our market remains open !

Now comes the news that Insurance and reinsurance marketplace Lloyd’s of London’s announcement that it plans to reopen its London headquarters and underwriting room on September 1, with new safety measures in place.  The Lloyd’s underwriting floor at 1 Lime Street has been closed since March 19 due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in the UK. But with lockdown restrictions set to be significantly eased next month and many non-essential businesses reopening, Lloyd’s is now looking to resume operations at its headquarters. However, it noted that the September 1 date remains subject to government approval and the continued easing of lockdown measures.

If given the green light, the plans would see Lloyd’s reduce the capacity of the underwriting room to 45% in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines, and install clear screens on underwriting boxes. Opening hours are also being reviewed, and other measures under consideration include new deep cleaning practices, one-way and queuing systems, and temperature-check thermal cameras. In addition, Lloyd’s is working with the market to determine a class of business rota system to help manage capacity in the underwriting room. And in parallel with these changes, plans to improve digital connectivity have been accelerated with a virtual room to enable brokers and underwriters to connect online in a similar way to the physical location. A number of digital platforms are currently being tested with an eye to launching the virtual room on September 1.

To support this, a help desk will be set up at Lloyd’s to assist market participants in training and troubleshooting, and digital booths will be installed to allow for confidential virtual meetings.

The World is changing, Lloyds has weathered many a storms and perhaps would place good plans for itself before undertaking to cover business casualties of which Covid 19 cover might feature more prominently.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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