Forty years after the first woman entered the Lloyd's of London dealing floor as a broker, the 325-year-old insurance market has named its first female boss.
The company is to be run by 30-year industry veteran Inga Beale from January. Currently the chief executive of Canopius, a Lloyd's managing agent thought to be the subject of a takeover bid, Beale will replace Richard Ward who surprised the industry by resigning in the summer.
"Lloyd's is already an international leader, but this unique market has an extraordinary opportunity to increase its footprint and to cement its position as the global hub for specialist insurance and reinsurance. I'm looking forward to working with the Lloyd's team and the wider market to deliver a strategy for profitable and sustainable growth alongside Lloyd's robust market oversight," said Beale.
The world's largest insurance market insures anything from footballers' legs to singers' voices – Bruce Springsteen once insured his for £3.5m – as well as providing cover against natural disasters such as storms and floods.
Based in an eye-catching building in London's Lime Street – designed by Richard Rogers with the lifts are on the outside – Lloyds is actually a group of about 80 competing insurance syndicates that traces its origins back to a 17th-century London coffee house where merchants insured ships.
Beale has held a number of senior roles in the insurance industry including at Zurich Insurance and at the insurance arm of General Electric.
In June, in an interview she gave as chief executive of Canopius, she said having women at board level would make a difference to the way companies were run and stressed the importance of having female role models.
"I think the business is run differently if you have women around the decision-making table and that's why it's good to have diversity, not just on the gender side. Different people approach things differently and provide alternative views – diverse boards help companies make better decisions, which affect the bottom line," said Beale.
"Until we get more women around the decision-making table women are unlikely to get enough encouragement to really aspire to reach senior positions in the industry."
Her appointment comes 40 years after the first female broker at Lloyd's. Liliana Archibald also became the first female Name – one of the individuals who back the market with their own money.
After her first day in the broking room at Lloyd's, Archibald passed the building on the way home and commented that "the roof was still on".
Beale's appointment also coincides with more attempts to help women break the glass ceiling with business secretary Vince Cable requiring FTSE 100 companies to have 25% female representation on their boards by 2015.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010