Lloyd’s of London insurance market has issued an apology for its role in the 18th and 19th century transatlantic slave trade, calling it “an appalling and shameful” era.
The insurer will fund charities and organisations created to promote opportunities for black and ethnic minority groups.
Pub chain Greene King also formally apologised, and committed to making reparations, in news first reported by the Telegraph.
Anti-racist protests have spread around Britain following an uproar in the US over the killing of black man George Floyd in police custody.
Protesters who toppled a statue of a Bristol slave trader earlier this month has prompted a formal review of London’s statues and a reexamination of Britain’s cultural history.
In a statement, Lloyd’s of London said: “We are sorry for the role played by the Lloyd’s market in the eighteenth and nineteenth century slave trade – an appalling and shameful period of English history, as well as our own.
“Recent events have shone a spotlight on the inequality that black people have experienced over many years as a result of systematic and structural racism that has existed in many aspects of society and unleashed difficult conversations that were long overdue.”
Simon Fraser, a founder subscriber member of Lloyd’s, had at least 162 slaves and received almost £400,000 in compensation when he gave up a plantation in Dominica. Researchers said he held more slaves at a site in British Guiana.
According to University College London archives, Greene King co-founder Benjamin Greene was pro-slavery and had at least 231 slaves.
Greene received the equivalent of £500,000 in compensation when slavery was abolished in Britain in 1833. Greene’s descendants included a Bank of England governor, Tory MP and a BBC director-general, the Guardian reported.
“It is inexcusable that one of our founders profited from slavery and argued against its abolition in the 1800s,” Nick Mackenzie, Greene King’s chief executive officer, said.
“We don’t have all the answers, so that is why we are taking time to listen and learn from all the voices, including our team members and charity partners as we strengthen our diversity and inclusion work.”
MacKenzie said Greene King will “make a substantial investment to benefit the BAME community and support our race diversity in the business”.
He added that the firm now employs people “across the UK from all backgrounds”, adding that “racism and discrimination have no place at Greene King”.
Lloyd’s of London added that it would “invest in positive programmes to attract, retain and develop black and minority ethnic talent”.
The insurance market also plans to offer “financial support to charities and organisations promoting opportunity and inclusion for black and minority ethnic groups”.
A Lloyd’s spokesman added: “We are grateful to our black and minority ethnic colleagues who have helped to shape our conversations and actions to ensure that we create an environment free from injustice for them and for all. Our commitment is that we will continue to listen and learn as we act and to measure our progress.
“There is a long way to go but we are determined that we can and will create a culture in the Lloyd’s market in which everybody can flourish.”