Insurance duo Langley and Masojada formally elected as Sheriffs

Despite representing a major component of London’s financial economy, the UK insurance industry has long been woefully under-represented when it comes to residents of Mansion House.

The traditional home of the Lord Mayor, its annual tenants are far more likely to be bankers, lawyers, asset managers or accountants by background. But this is set to change with today’s formal appointment of Bronek Masojada and Sue Langley as joint Aldermanic Sheriffs, an ancient posting that is a stepping stone to being selected as a future Lord Mayor of the City of London.

The duo were confirmed to shrievalty by the City’s Livery Companies, who convened at an annual event called Common Hall which takes place on the Monday closest to Midsummer Day.

Masojada stepped down last year after twenty years as Hiscox CEO and remains a prominent market figure including as chairman of the London E-placement platform, PPL. Langley is also well-known as chair of Gallagher UK and was previously Hiscox COO and director of market operations and North America at Lloyd’s. Earlier this month, she was recognised in King Charles III's first Birthday Honours with a damehood for services to the public and financial services.

The pair succeed banker Alastair King, the Aldermanic Sheriff for 2022/2023, who is now set to become Lord Mayor within the next few years (Nick Lyons – another banker albeit one with significant insurance experience including as a director of Convex and chairman of Phoenix Group– is the current Mansion House resident).

The Insurer sat down with the duo following their election on Monday and asked the obvious – if impertinent question – about whether these ancient postings have any modern-day relevance in a world of global capital, multinationals and international regulation.

Masojada responds that the positions may be ancient but they offer important platforms to wield “soft power” to influence and represent the City of London (and the insurance sector within it).

“A huge part of the role is the use of that soft power, the power of ceremony and event, to influence and promote London on both a domestic and international platform,” he explains.

If the election of an insurance figure as an Aldermanic Sheriff is a rare event, the selection of two is almost unprecedented. Indeed, it is highly unusual to appoint two figures of any profession at any time and suggests the City’s burghers are keen to expand the pipeline of future Lord Mayors (all have to have previously served as Aldermanic Sheriffs before they can be considered).

In addition to King, the other current potential candidates include Alison Gowman, and Tim Hailes.

Although largely ceremonial, the Sheriffs typically support the Lord Mayor in his or her civic duties as an ambassador for the UK financial and professional services industry. They also promote the work of the Judges of the Old Bailey and the rule of law.

And Langley stresses their appointments can only be a positive for the London and UK insurance markets because the Shrievelty and the Mayoralty remains a highly influential position equivalent in many respects as a trade minister who is expected to represent the City on the world stage.

“The role of sheriff isn't about Bronek and I, we just happen to be occupying it for a year. The ambassadorial nature of the role, the ability to use the Old Bailey and ability to use the title on an international platform allows you to spearhead something much more fundamental,” she said.

“The London market has some great initiatives and a great many voices championing those initiatives, many of which are designed to tackle some of the market’s most pressing challenges, international relevance, competitiveness and access to talent. That said, we have been guilty in the past of not always speaking with a single voice which means messages get lost.

“Part of this role is to bring those voices together and ensure they are heard both in the UK and abroad,” she continued.

The issue of talent is particularly pressing, Masojada says, highlighting that the London insurance market is expected to hire 50,000 people over the next four years and that’s just to stand still.

“That is replicated across the City, in other industries and other firms. We really have to attract talent by figuring out ways to let people talk to each other,” he explains.

Both say they are driven by a desire to make sure that the City provides opportunities for all.

Masojada is himself an “outsider” in the sense of being a South African with East European ancestry and he points as inspiration the personal story of Dick Whittington, Lord Mayor on four occasions between 1397 and 1419, who, as the story goes, came to London as a poor boy to seek his fortune.

“If we can help that happen for the Dick Whittington’s of today and tomorrow, well then the year would have been worthwhile,” agrees Masojada.

Warming to the theme, Langley says that while the City’s financial sectors have all made “real strides” in broadening their talent appeal, all too often “traditional” appointments are made. “London has many hidden communities – the City should reach out to them,” she said.

In fact, Masojada says they are both well-suited to pursue this agenda with neither having conventional, establishment backgrounds (there have only been two female Lord Mayors out of 694).

“Maybe you have to be a bit of an outsider to appreciate this, Sue and I are still slightly outsiders, and actually people who perhaps don’t regard all of this as normal,” as he alluded to the ceremony, robes and chains of ancient office that come with being a Sheriff or Lord Mayor.

“But [the actual positions themselves] do count and there is a very real opportunity, not just for us, but for the wider-industry in having a prominent voice”.

The final question is one that intrigues many in the London insurance market. Once their Sheriff duties are fulfilled, who will take up residence at Mansion House first?

“Fortunately, that is not a decision we have to make”, they respond in unison, “and there is no automatic step to the Mayoralty. It’s a well-rehearsed answer although they are strictly correct. It is formally down to the City’s 25 Alderman to elect Lord Mayors at a future Common Hall meeting although HM Treasury and the Bank of England have influence.

Either way, for supporters of the London market it is good news the industry will likely have two highly influential and well respected champions in the coming years ahead…

This interview was carried out and written by Henry Wallace and Ryan Hewlett.