LONDON (Reuters) - The Lloyd's of London insurance market has appointed its first-ever female chief executive, to replace Richard Ward, who announced he would step down in July.

Inga Beale, a 30-year industry veteran who was previously head of insurer Canopius, starts in her new role in January, Lloyd's said in a statement on Monday.

"Her CEO experience, underwriting background, international experience and operational skills, together with her knowledge of the Lloyd's market, make Inga the ideal chief executive for Lloyd's," said company chairman John Nelson.

Beale inherits a 325-year-old institution that's in the middle of a modernization drive started by her predecessor.

Ward introduced new technology and launched a push to make Lloyd's relevant in the rapidly growing economies of Asia and Latin America.

Lloyd's, a collection of about 80 competing insurance syndicates housed in a landmark building at the heart of London's financial district, started life in 1688 as a gathering of shipping merchants in a coffee house.

(Reporting by Chris Vellacott)