SPOKEN- Episode 12

In this episode Sanjeev gives us news of developments across the business. We are joined by GFG’s Global Head of Brand Kim Stoute-Purvis, who tells us all about Our Everyday Heroes. Plus, we’ll meet the Group General Counsel for GFG, Simon Nasta to find out what his role involves. We will have more questions from you for Sanjeev, this time from Boban Mitrovic from LIBERTY Steel Skopje and Georgia Cragg, from ALVANCE.


Show Transcript:
00:04JUSTINEHello and welcome to ‘Spoken’ – the podcast for GFG Alliance colleagues across the world.   I’m Justine Greene and on this episode, we’ll meet GFG’s Global Head of Brand, Kim Stoute-Purvis. And we’ll be speaking to Simon Nasta, Group General Counsel, GFG Alliance. Plus, of course, we have questions from you, this time from Macedonia and the UK. Joining us as always is Sanjeev Gupta, Executive Chairman of the GFG Alliance, hi Sanjeev, how are you?
00:33SANJEEVHello, Justine. I’m very well thank you, I hope you are well?
00:35JUSTINEYes, I’m very well thank you. When we last spoke you were working from Dubai… are you still there?
00:42SANJEEVYes, very much. In a way, though, looking forward to coming back to the UK now that things are beginning to look like they will come back to some normality.
00:48JUSTINEIndeed. Are you missing being in the UK?
00:52SANJEEVOh yes, very much. It is home, so obviously I very much miss it, yes.
00:56JUSTINEOh, you must be missing the weather here?
01:00SANJEEV(laugh) No, not quite. Although I hear it’s getting better, so by the time I get there I think it’ll be just perfect.
01:05JUSTINELet’s hope so. Now, I understand you have an update for us about ThyssenKrupp – not the news you were hoping for?
01:11SANJEEVNo, Justine, it was a quite disappointing few days that have just gone by. No, we worked very hard, all of us. A very large team, and also really from ThyssenKrupp’s side as well, everybody worked very hard to make this combination possible, or make it a reality. It was a superior option, both– In all aspects, economically it provided a capacity realisation which would enhance the economics of the business, and there were various other synergies in the business, it was also providing more job security because more production meant less job losses and less restricting for Thyssen, and of course, it was providing us with a good solution for our requirements in our downstream plants, both in Northern Europe and also in Eastern Europe. And also it was a great way to really accelerate our drive towards decarbonisation, which we are pursuing relentlessly, but having a strong position in Germany would have also helped that cause in a big way. Germany is in the centre of Europe, and Europe is in the centre of decarbonisation, so it was really ticking all of the boxes, let’s say. But, unfortunately, in the end, there was too big a value gap between what we consider a sustainable long term position could be for the business, versus the current markets. The current markets are very heated so that obviously has come in our way to some degree. But our door remains open, we will continue to try to have a dialogue, things change, and the combination still makes all the sense it did while it was in pursuit. So, that’s not going to change. So, let’s see, you never know.
02:44JUSTINESo, how does this development affect your plans for the year?
02:47SANJEEVGFG is an ever-moving group, so we have lots of different developments in the group, always ongoing. And of course, depending on which and what happens, it has an impact on others. But, we will constantly keep moving, change is our fundamental value and we will keep evolving our business continuously.
03:05JUSTINEOK, moving on, and there are developments for LIBERTY this time in Poland?
03:08SANJEEVIndeed, indeed. It was a very proud– not just an acquisition, but also how quickly we were able to start both the rolling mill and the electric arc furnace there. It is very, very squarely in our Green Steel strategy, it is basically making slabs from scrap and then green plates, it’s the only green plate producer in Europe, and we’re wrapping up the production every day. And it was a good time for it to start as well, with the markets being strong. So yes, it’s gone well.
03:37JUSTINEAnd I hear there’s potentially pioneering work going on in France?
03:40SANJEEVIndeed, so this is part of our global hydrogen steel initiative. There are a few locations which suit very well, the production of hydrogen steel. I mean, a key factor of hydrogen obviously is the electricity price, France is a low-carbon and low-cost energy environment, we already enjoy very special prices for our smelter in Dunkerque, which is the largest consumer of electricity in France. So, next to that, we have all the electricity infrastructure, all the land, the port, all the industrial environment we need to undertake such a brave effort. It is a joint exercise between us, Paul Worth who owns Sunfire, which is the best, in our opinion, by far the best-suited technology for hydrogen production, especially for steel. They’re our technical partner for that project, and Saarsthal who’s one of the prominent German steel producers, with them taking some of the hydrogen DRI which we’ll produce, and us taking some of the hydrogen DRI for our own plants.
04:39JUSTINEFinally, for now, Sanjeev, the Be GFG Safe strategy was launched last year. What would say to colleagues about the importance of safety across the whole business?
04:47SANJEEVI mean, this is, you know, something which is paramount. It goes above and beyond any other importance of anything else in our business, we’ve obviously had some recent tragedies, and that is something which has shaken me up personally, deeply. We need to prioritise this above anything else. Keeping all of us safe has to be our highest, biggest priority. So, it’s something which we’ll be really shaking up, going forward, to see how we can improve and really get into a position where there are standards which are uniform across the whole world as well. Because we have plants in various parts of the world and obviously different plants coming from different pedigrees or different heritages so there are differences in safety standards.   So all of those are being reviewed very, very acutely at the moment to try and improve them.
05:33JUSTINEAbsolutely. Thanks, Sanjeev – as always do stay with us for some questions from your colleagues later in the podcast…
05:43JUSTINELet’s meet the first of our guests now, Kim Stoute-Purvis, GFG’s Global Head of Brand. Hello Kim and welcome. Explain to us what you do as Head of Brand?
05:52KIMYeah, great question Justine. I think it’s probably fair to say that I wear a number of hats, my priority is championing our brand purpose, and building and strengthening all of our brands within the GFG Alliance. It’s also my job to champion our audience, so I think it’s really important that we have an audience-first mindset, particularly with our customers and employees. And we want our customers to really love our brands and our employees to live our brands. It’s really important that we drive real commercial value.
06:27JUSTINEOk now tell us about your initiative ‘Our Everyday Heroes’ – how did the idea come about?
06:32KIMI wanted our own everyday heroes to have a platform whereby they could speak about their own experiences of working at GFG or Liberty or the other brands. We should be as passionate about internal marketing as we are about external marketing. Because we need to really further, or better-engage, our audience. And, you know, we’ve got some really powerful stories to tell, and I think that our employees can absolutely help us do that. And actually, interestingly, our fourth film is due to launch across all social media platforms, so keep an eye out for that.
07:07JUSTINEYou mentioned the other brands there. What about your plans for developing these – ALVANCE and SIMEC for example?
07:12KIMMoving forward, for both ALVANCE and for SIMEC, it goes back to the storytelling piece, actually. A little bit like ‘Everyday Heroes’. Which is, for ALVANCE, we need to position our customer offering more coherently, so tell that story more clearly, and for SIMEC, you know, renewable energy is at the heart of that brand, and we need to better tell that story too. So, I think collectively, it’s about how do LIBERTY, ALVANCE and SIMEC help drive towards our CN30 target.
07:42JUSTINESo, finally, with International Women’s Day in March, we have a slightly different question for you, if you were starting your career again as a woman in a male-dominated industry, what piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
07:54KIMI would say, believe in yourself and know that you’re doing the right thing. I think, you know, it’s a really difficult challenging environment, or it can be a difficult challenging environment, but really think about your own capabilities, and believe in yourself that you’re following the right path.
08:12JUSTINEWell, it certainly worked for you. Thanks very much for joining us, Kim.
08:15KIMNo problem, thanks for having me.
08:16JUSTINEOur next guest is Simon Nasta, Group General Counsel, GFG Alliance. Hello Simon and welcome. First of all, tell us what your role involves….
08:25SIMONHi Justine. So, my role is Group General Counsel of GFG. I’m responsible for the legal function globally, but happily very well assisted by some amazing people, whether it’s Rob in Australia, or Howard in the US, or Morella in Romania. We’ve got some fantastic people. I also have some responsibility in relation to financial services MNA and insurance and pensions. Day-to-day, there’ll certainly be acquisition issues that one would be dealing with and working on. There’ll be advisory questions that I’ll have in relation to say, our financial services, assets, or there will be litigations. Obviously, we’re a very big group, so of course, we have disputes. There’ll be various management queries and catch-ups with people, obviously particularly in this pandemic world, it’s important to stay in touch, to check in with your team, see what they’re doing, see what they need support with. Inevitably, Sanjeev will Whatsapp me or call me, giving me some task to help with. So day-to-day for me is never quite the same, which is fab, but it will be solving some kind of legal issue or something to do with finance, perhaps, or acquisitions.
09:40JUSTINEWhat made you want to go into the legal profession in the first place?
09:43SIMONWell, I did a history degree, I at one stage thought I’d be a history academic, I was really keen and I loved writing my history essays. I was playing in a five-a-side football tournament, and the ‘University Milk Round’ was coming through our college, which was basically where different firms come and pitch to you, and tell you that they’re wonderful and that it’s all going to be great, and I got back from a five-a-side football tournament and was in football kit, smelly and sweaty, and people took these things very seriously and they’d turn up in their suits, etc. etc. It was all quite unnecessary, and I turned up in my football kit and I met this really lovely guy, who was quite an inspirational lawyer, didn’t seem remotely bothered that I smelt or was in my smelly football kit, and not trying to impress in a suit, and I just found what he had to say really quite inspiring, so then I applied to a vacations scheme there and was lucky enough to get that. And that was really it. So, I wouldn’t say I had planned always to be a lawyer, it more or less found me. But, I think I found my calling. I think I am a lawyer, I think it’s the thing that suits me best. I love to negotiate, I love problems, and I’m very much someone who’s more of the written word than a mathematical or a logic person. So, I think it’s the right thing for me to do.
11:08JUSTINENow, I hear you love your sport. What were your regular sporting endeavours pre Covid, and how have you adapted your activities since?
11:16SIMONI cycle, I didn’t run before Covid, but I’ve started running lately, which was great. I ran a lot as a child and was quite good at athletics when I was a kid, in fact, I was a bit embarrassed since Covid because I started running and I’ve always had this, what I didn’t realise was a view that I was quite good at running, which I quickly discovered when I started running in Covid is actually no longer the case. Although, I’m gradually getting better, so that’s good. A really funny sport I’ve taken up lately is my son, who’s nine, plays chess on Chess.com occasionally, and like lots of kids, he’s not so great at losing. And he does these ten-minute games so to avoid a sort of family temper tantrum or anything like that, I’ve started trying to help him manufacture a win with him, and you literally have ten minutes, so that’s quite hard to do, so it’s also quite a good lesson for him. You know, in life, you don’t always win. But it slightly grabbed my attention, so now I try and do two or three games a week because it’s only ten minutes and you can kind of manage that. And it can be quite a humbling experience.
12:20JUSTINEFinally, how do you think the work-life balance will look for you and your team post-pandemic?
12:25SIMONI think my work-life balance hasn’t changed at all in the sense of, I have to work very hard. I just think, because you might commute slightly less and things like that, you can fit in a run where you didn’t have the time to fit it in before, you can make bedtime and bath time with the kids, you’ve just got a bit more accessibility with technology and attitude changes. But, I think GFG was ahead of its time in that respect. It’s very much a place to work hard, play hard, do your job as well as you can and be available. I don’t think it’s a clock-watching sort of environment, and that’s always been really helpful.
13:02JUSTINESimon, good talking with you, thanks for joining us…
13:05SIMONOkay, thank you, Justine, good to chat.
13:08JUSTINENext, Sanjeev is back with us to answer some of your questions…
13:15JUSTINEAs always, our podcast is your chance to talk directly to Sanjeev. Let’s have a question for you now Sanjeev….
13:21BOBANHi Sanjeev, my name is Boban Mitrovic from LIBERTY Steel Skopje. There was an excellent initiative in terms of raising mental health awareness especially since the pandemic, how do you plan to continue moving forward?
13:38SANJEEVI think the pandemic may be focused our mind on this issue further, but it’s been something that has been important to me and to the group forever. Family is our fundamental value, I regard every single employee in the group as my family, and it’s important for me that they can all feel safe within this environment, especially as they all come from different histories, different organisations, different cultures. Encouraging this inclusive and open culture is critical. I am Here was launched as a result of that thinking, to give it real focus. But it’s not a single initiative, that’s something important to underline. It’s a bit like the rest of the company and our culture in general. Change is a fundamental value, evolution is a fundamental value. Mental health awareness and issues will continue. We have to continuously evolve, continuously change, and continuously keep shining a light on them and addressing them in moving forward. So, it is something that will grow organically as we go along, and I’m very happy that it’s been focused on, even more so now.
14:41JUSTINEThanks for taking part in the podcast Boban. Our next question comes from Georgia Cragg who heads Transformation and Integration in ALVANCE. Hi Georgia, I believe, you’ve got a topical one for us?
14:53GEORGIAHi Justine, yes, as we know March includes International Women’s Day, a day for reflecting on the contributions and achievements of women across the world. Obviously, this is not just important on one day, but in everything we do, and is one of the main drivers for the launch of the GFG Diversity and Inclusion Network.
15:12JUSTINEOK, so take it away with your question.
15:14GEORGIAYes, Sanjeev, what plans do GFG have around diversity and inclusion, not just for women, but for inclusivity generally?
15:21SANJEEVIt’s a very good question. The first thing I would like to say is that GFG, LIBERTY, from the very beginning– I mean, I’m going back now even in the ’90s, when we were a small trading company, we’ve always had a huge amount of cultural diversity in the business. So, it’s always been a multi-cultured company, and that’s something I’m very, very proud of. So, we have a general ethos of inclusion as a company, as a group, for sure. And that’s something which is in our DNA. But, the problem with our industry is specifically, that it’s a very male-dominated industry. And that is something which has to change. And I’m obviously very keen to see that happen, and we’re trying, obviously it has to be based on merit always, but we will do our best to always continue to promote inclusion and diversity in all our businesses globally. And that applies not just to women, but in all areas.
16:17JUSTINEOK, thanks Sanjeev and thanks Georgia for being part of the podcast. When we return next month there’ll be more chances for you to speak to Sanjeev, so do get in touch with your question – just drop us an email to spoken@gfgalliance.com, that’s spoken@gfgalliance.com.
16:35JUSTINEFinally, Sanjeev, nominations for the Chairman’s Global Excellence Awards close very soon – you must be keen to see as many people as possible get involved?
16:45SANJEEVAbsolutely. It’s the first one, globally to do. Unfortunately, the timing was not ideal because we got hit by the pandemic soon afterwards, so it makes it very difficult, relatively speaking. But I’m encouraged by the participation, I’m very excited to see how it all pans out. And actually, an interesting experiment that it’s all happening virtually, so we’ll see how much of a success it is. I’m very sure it will be and I’m looking forward to it very much.
17:08JUSTINEThanks, Sanjeev and we look forward to speaking again with you next month…
17:12SANJEEVThank you, Justine. You take care.
17:14JUSTINEAnd you. We’ll be back with more of the latest news, comment and guests from across the GFG community. Until then, from me Justine Greene and Sanjeev Gupta, it’s goodbye.

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SPOKEN- Episode 12
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