Lloyd’s sets out its stall and bans lunchtime drinks
After the Corporation of Lloyd’s banned its 800 staff from drinking at lunchtime, the responses from the insurance market have varied from “about time” to cries about “nanny state” imposing yet more rules on workers. For those of you who do not know, the London insurance market is famously boozy. I fondly remember my first lunch with a Bermuda CEO in one of the fine eateries in Leadenhall Market, where I was given some of the best business advice I’ve ever been given over fine food and fine wine.
I have also made some of my best friends over a bottle or two at lunchtime. I don’t think I have a single London Market client with whom I have not been for long lunches where we have shot the breeze, talked shop, exchanged industry gossip, and sealed deals.
No booze is becoming the norm
For quite a while, many companies in the market have had a “no booze” policy – remember HR is often run out of the US, where drinking during the working day has been frowned on for decades. The way round this for many in the City is they are told not to come back to work if you have had a sherry or two while out with a client.
Drinking culture in the City of London has changed over the years. Bankers have been mainly dry for a long time. Outside of the insurance golden triangle in EC3 of Leadenhall Street, Fenchurch Street and Gracechurch Street, if you head towards Bank, lunches are kept to an hour and diet cokes and fizzy water the norm.
Did the banking crisis cause this?
The banking crisis led to a clamp down and PR teams lived in fear of their staff being caught with a glass of champagne in their hand while the world crashed and burned around them. Banks cancelled anything extravagant looking – no matter what the business rewards actually were. There were many jokes around that the only time you would see bankers drinking at lunchtime was if it was on the tab of an insurance company
I see the benefits of both worlds. Much more work gets done if you have not had a scoop full. But the bonds and friendships made over these extended lunches are also part of the fabric of this market that prides itself on face-to-face contact and deals sealed by a handshake and “your word is your bond” culture.
The days of insurance policies being written on the back of a beer mat or a cocktail napkin are the stuff of legend –and the lack of policy wording has kept a lot of lawyers in business for a long time. So it had to change and it is not surprising.
There’s a lot of debate online about the drinking culture
What is interesting from a public relations standpoint is the interest this story has generated. I’ve posted a few things on LinkedIn and Twitter – and the views of these short posts are higher than anything I’ve ever posted.
As of yesterday, one post had 6,158 views on LinkedIn, with 128 Swiss Re people and 252 CEOs or Executive Directors reading it. Another LinkedIn post had 3,932 views with 240 CEOs/Executive Directors reading it. I posted two tweets – one had 447 impressions (pointing out a comment on an article in the FT stating “next they’ll be banning cocaine at the Wharf”!) and the other had 549 impressions.
It has to be said that Leadenhall Market does seem quieter. But that may have to do with the Corporation of London at the same time putting up barriers stopping the lads at the Lamb from spilling across the street and insisting that everyone outside drinks out of plastic glasses. Amazingly enough this has not gone down well with the punters.
I’ll keep an eye on how the pubs fare and let you know if there is a drastic drop in the number of liquid lunches. And I’ll collect some epic tales of “my first City lunch” for posting here. There are some hilarious stories from way back when, in the mists of time, when it was a ritual to take out the office junior and put them through their drinking paces. Many of those are now executives in the market.
So if you have a story you want to share – let me know and I’ll include it for next time. Cheers! Failing that, contact the team and we’ll be sure to make time to catch up with you.