The Lloyd’s of London insurance market said on Friday it is considering combining its physical underwriting floor in the City of London with some online elements.Lloyd’s shut its “underwriting room” in its London tower on March 19 in response to the coronavirus pandemic and has said it will not reopen before August, marking the first closure of physical trading in the commercial insurance market’s 330-year history.


The closure of the underwriting floor, usually packed with brokers and underwriters, meant the market went fully online for the first time, potentially opening the way for its operations to go digital on a more permanent basis.


Underwriters and brokers say the market, which employs nearly 50,000 people, has run smoothly with greater use of existing electronic systems and they are in no hurry to return to the office.


Jennifer Rigby, Chief Operations Officer at Lloyd’s, said in a video posted on YouTube on May 28 that the market was planning to experiment with combining the best features of the physical underwriting room “with a virtual room that is available to visit, no matter where in the world you are.”


“This clearly has been fast-tracked.”


The plan is in development as part of the market’s Future at Lloyd’s programme to shift to electronic exchanges, though Lloyd’s has previously said there would always be a place for a physical underwriting floor.


Lloyd’s already uses virtual reality headsets to show brokers overseas how the market operates, a Lloyd’s spokesman said.


A more detailed update on Lloyd’s’ future will be issued in July, Lloyd’s said in a progress report on Friday.


“The insurance industry has proved it’s perfectly capable of supporting clients remotely with a near to normal service,” said Jon Turner, CEO of broker Gallagher’s specialty division.


“A packed trading floor feels like a distant memory.”