It is time to get rid of the rotting sewage of stagnant business practices

The dust was still settling from the Kinnect debacle when Alex Letts rose to give his Insurance Institute of London address last week.

The Ri3K chief executive could not have picked a more fortuitous time to deliver his lecture, "The Last Hurrah for the Subscription Market?" His basic thesis was that Lloyd's is losing market share to Bermuda hand over fist, and the lack of electronic trading and contract certainty, combined with antediluvian business practices, could potentially be fatal "in the Google world".

Letts' decision to eschew the traditional suit and tie in favour of a dapper black polo neck and jacket meant that he would normally have been thrown out of the building. But, in the true spirit of progressiveness, he was allowed to carry on.

His message was, essentially, great brand, shame about the Luddite approach to marketing.

Emphasising the importance of the physical marketplace and the traditional relationships between broker and underwriter, he nonetheless hammered home the message that electronic trading (using Ri3K perhaps?) is vital if Lloyd's is to retain its pre-eminence.

While similar wake-up calls may have been given before, there did seem to be a perceptible shift in attitude among the assembled luminaries as Letts carefully delineated Lloyd's precarious position in its brand lifecycle.

Certainly, a gentleman in the audience with a rather splendid walrus moustache was startled from his slumbers when Letts warned of a future for One Lime Street as "a location for hire used for university graduations like the Guildhall".

In a particularly surreal moment, Letts also touched a little on the state of Lloyd's plumbing, commenting "the state of the drains round here is so bad that customers can't bear the stink".

While everyone inhaled to catch a whiff of the fetid stench that was bothering Letts, he went on to explain that this was merely a metaphor for business processing: "Rotting sewage, in the form of ancient processing, is backing up in open drains, and has to go."

That will be a fun job for Prettejohn's replacement, as one cannot imagine Lord Levene will jump at the chance of donning his boots.