Sanjeev talks about his priorities for the business this year…

Sanjeev talks about his priorities for the business this year…

Welcome to our first podcast of 2022! Sanjeev talks about his priorities for the business this year and looks at a special anniversary. We meet Sofie De Bus, HR Director at ALVANCE Aluminium in Duffel and Aida Nechifor, Director General, LIBERTY Galati. Plus, colleagues from Australia and the UK have questions for Sanjeev.  15 mins

Show Transcript:
00:00 Jingle ‘Spoken’ from GFG Alliance.
00:04 CHLOE TILLEY Hello and welcome to ‘Spoken’ – the podcast for GFG Alliance colleagues across the world. I’m Chloe Tilley, and for our first episode of 2022 we’ll be talking to Sofie De Bus, who is HR Director at ALVANCE Aluminium in Duffel. Also, we’ll meet Aida Nechifor, who is Director General, LIBERTY Galați . And, of course, joining us as ever is Sanjeev Gupta, Executive Chairman, of the GFG Alliance. Hi there Sanjeev, how are you?
00:29 SANJEEV GUPTA Hi Chloe, all good. Happy New Year!
00:31 chloe Happy New Year to you, too. Now Sanjeev, before we talk business, tell me did you, did your family, did you manage to enjoy some time together over the break?
00:38 sanjeev Absolutely, it was very nice. It’s always a good time to get some down time with family so we were altogether for Christmas and New Year, which was lovely. A lot of time to reflect. I mean, nobody in GFG will forget 2021 I think. It was quite an eventful year, so it was good to reflect on it and sort of plan ahead for the New Year. Feeling refreshed and ready to go. And in terms of my reflections, I think I did make an effort to explain some of them in my end of year message. I hope everybody got a chance to see it, if not I would encourage whoever missed it to please have a look.
01:13 chloe Well Sanjeev, let’s look to the year ahead. What would you say are your priorities for GFG in 2022?
01:20 sanjeev Chloe, of course first of all it goes without saying that our biggest priority at the moment is completing our restructuring and refinancing. We’ve made some very good progress in a short space of time in challenging conditions and the rest of it is very much in train and I’m really spending quite a lot of time on making sure that completes in an orderly and timely manner. We’ve done very well. All of our businesses – most of our businesses – have done very well through the pandemic and also through Greensteel in terms of operating safely, operating profitably, so that’s certainly a priority to continue to do that. Another challenge which has been identified by GFG for a long time, and we’ve made great progress on is identifying the need for, of course, retaining our good talent but also bringing new talent into the company. And in this regard, I’m really very excited about the Greensteel Academy being rolled out across the world and the good work that the Foundation is also doing. And that links in really to our main purpose which is to really focus on decarbonisation in our industry and again skills is a key part of that. So, those are the four priorities for me and for the group this year.
02:28 chloe Now, you did manage to visit parts of the business last year when restrictions allowed. I imagine that you must be hoping to see more of colleagues in person in 2022?
02:38 sanjeev It’s one of the biggest regrets I have over the two years through the issues with Covid and travel restrictions is that I’m used to being at different countries and different plants all the time. And it’s been much, much restricted and I’ve only been able to go to a few of them over the last couple of years. I’m hoping that will change, things will ease and I’ll get out more and spend more time on the ground with my people.
03:00 chloe And this year sees a landmark birthday for the group?
03:04 SANJEEV I know! It’s amazing! It makes me realise my age when I think about it. I mean, it’s 30 years since I founded Liberty from my bedroom in University. Amazing. It seems like many lifetimes ago. So yes, thirtieth year of Liberty which is exciting. I mean, I hope that we can get through some of the important challenges ahead of us quickly so that maybe in the latter half of the year we can take a breath and celebrate these 30 years. And we can really reflect on this incredible journey. Especially in the last decade – how quickly we have grown and how much we’ve achieved and how much we’ve built, saved and how much further we have to go and also how exciting this new journey is for us which is now at centre stage for every country, every people in terms of taking our industry into the new century with new technologies and making sure that we don’t cause harm to the environment. So, I’m looking forward to the next 30 years!
04:05 CHLOE So, if I can take you back 30 years, what do you remember about your vision when you were first getting the business off the ground?
04:11 SANJEEV So, I think that’s reflected in our values in terms of change, family and sustainability. I believe human beings – the key difference between us and other species is how we play a very proactive role in evolution. And always looking at things for the very long term perspective, I always say we look at things in generations not in quarters, or years or even decades. So our generational outlook and looking for the future and looking for a sustainable path both economically, socially and also environmentally. Those are the lenses with which I measure my time in this company and in my career so it was really quite good over the holiday period to think about all that and reflect over the last 30 years, especially after such a big year.
04:55 CHLOE OK, well thanks for now Sanjeev, we’re going to be back with you shortly for questions from your colleagues but next, we’re off to Belgium.
05:05 CHLOE Well, joining us now is Sofie De Bus who is HR Director at ALVANCE Aluminium in Duffel. Hi Sofie, good to have you with us. Now, Duffel is one of Europe’s largest rolling mills, just tell us a little bit about what goes on here and the scale of your production capabilities?
05:20 SOFIE DE BUS Yes, hi Chloe. So what do we do in Duffel, we are actually one of the European leaders in the manufacturing of and sale of aluminium rolled products so we deliver coil and sheets to diverse industries worldwide. For instance, we have the widest automotive cold rolling mill in Europe. And we also continuous annealing line with pre-treatment, so CALP line for our automotive customers. We have a production capacity of about 200 tonnes of aluminium per year.
05:53 CHLOE Now you mentioned your automotive customers, but what are the other types of industries that use the aluminium that produced in Duffel?
06:01 SOFIE Well, we deliver to a lot of industries and if we divide them in two, we have two bigger, larger segments, on the one hand it’s the automotive industry and on the other hand our industrial products. And those industrial products – well, actually there is a lot in those segments and that is, for instance, the building industry. We deliver for architectural and decorative applications. We also deliver heat exchanges, but it goes beyond that. We also deliver material for the truck fuel tanks in the transportation applications and also pharmaceutical applications.
06:41 CHLOE So, can you give us a sense of the demand that you’re experiencing for products?
06:44 SOFIE Well, what we see is, at the moment, we have a very attractive market environment for our industrial applications. And actually for some segments, we see an increase in demand at the moment for about 15-40% and more specifically in our growth segment. So, for instance, for multi-layer tubing and for our building application and our anodising qualities we really see a big demand this year.
07:13 CHLOE And finally, I understand that this year will see the workforce in Duffel growing in numbers?
07:17 SOFIE Yes, indeed. Consequently, of course, when we see our production volumes increasing, we of course need the manning and the staff to make those products, so we are currently looking for quite a lot of new colleagues that are able to join us, hopefully very soon. We have started already actually, end of last year, end of ’21, with that search but we really need more than 50 new colleagues in order to be able to produce what customers demand.
07:51 CHLOE Sofie, really good to speak with you. Thank you so much for joining us.
07:73 SOFIE You’re welcome and thank you, too, Chloe.
07:57 CHLOE OK, next we are heading to Romania’s largest integrated steel producer. Welcome now to Aida Nechifor who is General Director at LIBERTY Galați . Hi there, Aida. Now let’s start by getting your thoughts on last year if we can. How would summarise 2021 for you and for LIBERTY Galați ?
08:14 AIDA NECHIFOR Hello from Romania, Chloe. In one word, turnaround. 2021 is the first year when we can see the results of our hard work done in the past two years. We have succeeded to transform our business in Romania financially, operationally and in terms of sustainability. We create a stronger, renewable team and developed a serious solar and wind project. And now we are focussed to reach annual production of three million tonnes of steel.
08:50 CHLOE And generally how have things been for you and for the business over the last few years?
08:55 AIDA In 2019 when LIBERTY Group acquired the Galați  steel plant the steel market was volatile. Next year we have to face the pandemic. In Romania we implement very strict rules specific to pandemic period in order to protect our 7000 people. We have maintained and even expanded our team during pandemic with delivery steel products to our customers without any stoppage.
09: 29 CHLOE Now you became General Director, LIBERTY Galați  back in May last year.
The first female Director at the plant in its 55 year history. It’s quite an
achievement. Just give us a sense of how that make you feel?
09:41 AIDA It is an honour and I feel grateful and proud to lead such amazing company even I know the company from 20 years. And when I enter in the plant’s door in the first time I have no idea in one day I will become not only director but the first woman to manage. In LIBERTY Galați  we have around 1100 women in our team. But in the moment we come to the office we are not man or woman we are a team and I am proud of my team who made a great effort in the past few years to establish our business and to prepare the company to become a regional Greensteel producer.
10:34 CHLOE Finally, looking ahead, what are you hoping for this year and beyond?
10:38 AIDA LIBERTY Steel Group have an ambition plan to become a carbon neutral producer in 2030. Therefore in 2022 we must continue our sustainability plans which will be an investment up to 1 billion Euro in Romania in order to reduce our carbon footprint. This is the way we are preparing extensive project to modernise our production flow and in invest in the technology. LIBERTY Galați  will transform from the national champion of steel producer into a regional champion of Greensteel.
11:18 CHLOE Aida, great having you on the podcast, thank you so much for joining us.
11:22 AIDA Thank you for your invitation, thank you very much.
11:26 CHLOE Our pleasure, now next, we’re back with Sanjeev, including your questions.
11:29 MUSIC Spoken
11:33 CHLOE Now here’s your chance to ask Sanjeev a question. Let’s start with our first one….
11:38 SEAN AHERNE Hi Sanjeev, Sean Aherne here from InfraBuild, Laverton, Australia. As we sometimes forget that mental health challenges do not discriminate no matter where you are in the corporate ladder. How are you and your mental health?
11:51 SANJEEV Sean, I’m not somebody who’s not accustomed to hard work and challenges but certainly last year has been probably the most challenging in my life from a personal and professional point of view with the crisis we’ve faced. I had to find my own ways of tackling that. I find that talking to colleagues, talking to family is probably the biggest release for me in terms of really being able to bounce problems off people who care about us and care about me and through that finding a way forward and finding strength. So being with family being able to talk to people I think is the biggest way of handling it. And then it’s also good to reflect so if you’re faced with challenges with issues, it’s always good to reflect, find some quite time as well to think about it and find ways and make a list for yourself on how you want to address them and go about it. I think the most important think is the not to be alone, this is a key point, it’s OK for us to have issues, everybody does in one way or another throughout life and so it’s OK not to be OK as they say, and it’s important not to be alone. Those are the two biggest things.
13:01 CHLOE Well thanks for that Sanjeev. Let’s get our next question.
13:04 Andrea Warren Hi Sanjeev, it’s Andrea Warren, Head of Health and Safety in LIBERTY Steel UK. We know visible leadership on health and safety is important. What one thing would you ask us as leaders in GFG to do in 2022 to help drive improvements on employee safety and wellbeing?
13:22 SANJEEV You know actually, I often think about this issue, and I think obviously it’s very key. First and foremost, it’s OK to challenge things. Now when I say challenge things, I’m not just saying about challenging the management or challenging authority. I think it’s important to be able to talk to your leaders and talk candidly. But also, I think it’s very important that we accept that the biggest issue in my opinion about the difficulties in changing health and safety practices is that people get used to doing things in a certain way. So, change especially in plants with a long history and in some ways well practiced ways or doing things is very difficult to call that and say no there’s an idea on how we can do something differently. And it’s very difficult to have the courage to do that. So, encouraging people to basically come up with new ideas, especially when it comes to these issues on practices and how they’re done and how they should be improved is key, I think. So, I think one key is to encourage dialogue, be open to new ideas and give people the feeling that they own their own health and safety, hence they have an obligation to themselves and their family to come up with new ways of improving.
14:30 CHLOE Some really good questions there. Thank you for sending those in. And if
you’d like to ask Sanjeev a question, do please send us an email including
your question to, that’s Finally, Sanjeev, before I let you go, what’s your
message for colleagues as 2022 stretches out ahead of us?
14:50 SANJEEV I think it’s going to be a good year. We still have some challenges and some jobs to complete. But we’re very well positioned in terms of the industry is doing well at the moment. We have good assets; we have great people. We have a leading position on decarbonisation which I think is going to be the defining factor in terms of our industry and it feels good to play that role. So we have good things ahead but probably still some months to go of hard work to go and of some uncertainty so thank you very much for sticking with me and being a key part of GFG and I look forward to working with everybody to fulfil our potential, our destiny.
15:30 CHLOE Sanjeev as ever thank you very much and look forward to speaking with you again next month.
15:34 Sanjeev              Thank you, Chloe, look forward to it, thank you.
15:35 chloe Well do join us next time when we’ll continue to keep you updated with the latest news from across the business. Until then, from me Chloe Tilley and Sanjeev Gupta, it’s thanks for listening and goodbye.
15:45 music Spoken, back soon.

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Sanjeev talks about his priorities for the business this year…
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