By Carolyn Cohn
LONDON (Reuters) -Lloyd’s of London will invest 40 million pounds ($49.6 million) in regions affected by the transatlantic slave trade, it said on Wednesday, after a report showed the commercial insurance market had strong links to the trade.
Lloyd’s will also spend around 12 million pounds on a programme to improve recruitment and progression for Black and other ethnic minority employees in the commercial insurance market, including bursaries for Black university students, it said in a statement.
Lloyd’s formed part of a sophisticated network of financial interests that made the slave trade possible, according to research published by Black Beyond Data, based at Johns Hopkins University.
The research was funded by the Mellon Foundation, and Lloyd’s said it had no editorial control over the findings.
The 335-year old insurance market apologised in 2020 for its role in the 18th and 19th century slave trade.
“We’ve asked ourselves how we could have the greatest impact,” Lloyd’s Chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown told Reuters. “We can’t change the wrongs of the past, but we can make a difference today.”
Lloyd’s said its Central Fund will invest $25 million in a bond administered by the African Development Bank and $25 million in a bond administered by the Inter-American Development Bank. The bonds will support the UN Sustainable Development Goal of “reduced inequality”.
The Lloyd’s market is made up of nearly 50,000 people, and Lloyd’s wants one in three new hires to come from ethnic minorities. The figure was 17% in 2022.
Historians estimate between one and two-thirds of the British marine insurance market was based on the slave trade in the 18th century.
Alexandre White, assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University, said the Black Beyond Data team had examined material from the Lloyd’s archive, including ledgers where insurers recorded policies for ships leaving Liverpool as part of the trade.
“Lloyd’s played a central role in the underwriting of marine insurance pertaining to the slave trade,” he said.
The Black Beyond Data research showed at least one third of all slaving voyages leaving Britain in 1807, for example, came through Lloyd’s for the underwriting of particular legs or the whole voyage.
The research also showed that Joseph Marryat, Lloyd’s of London chairman from 1811 to 1824, had enslaved people, White added.
“There’s no way to compensate for the damage that has been done – too much has happened,” said Junior Garba, co-founder of Equity, which provides recruitment and mentoring services for minority groups in the insurance sector. Garba added that Lloyd’s initiatives were “a good starting point”.
The Church of England earlier this year committed 100 million pounds to address the “shameful” wrongs of its links to slavery.
The United Nations has said countries should consider financial reparations among measures to compensate for the enslavement of people of African descent.
African and Caribbean entities have called for reparations, and the European Union has hinted at them. Some U.S. senators also support reparations.
($1 = 0.8135 pounds)
(Reporting by Carolyn Cohn; editing by Sinead Cruise, Jan Harvey, Elaine Hardcastle)