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Learning from leaders

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Our March 2019 issue summarized the cover profiles published over the first year of Metal Market Magazine’s publication, providing real-life examples of good business leadership, management and strategy given by leaders with extensive practical experience of running international companies. Only the full published interviews provide details of each individual leader’s route to the top and their company’s strategy at the time of original publication but, one year on, once again summaries of the past year’s cover profiles are collected together here to highlight an inspirational range of some of the key experiences and insights on leadership included to date.

Building a diverse group

In just 40 years, Cronimet has grown from running a single business from a scrap yard in Karlsruhe, Germany, to an international enterprise with annual sales of $3 billion. The group comprises two separate daughter companies – Cronimet Holding and Mining. CEO of Cronimet Holding and co-shareholder of Cronimet Mining Jürgen Pilarsky explained how the family-owned company had done it.

The offices at Cronimet’s headquarters in Karlsruhe, Germany offer a good view of the substantially expanded original scrap yard where the business started 40 years ago. Nowadays, from this hub of an international business that operates at over 70 locations worldwide, Cronimet’s directors look beyond the horizon to monitor progress at the holding company’s subsidiaries in Western Europe and further still – across the Atlantic – to activities in the United States. To the east, the company has a significant, but separate, mining enterprise with a copper-molybdenum asset in Armenia and, to the Far East, a presence in Asia. In the southern hemisphere, the company has scrapyards in South Africa and further recycling operations in Brazil.

A timeline of the main highlights of Cronimet’s expansion since its foundation in 1980 as Cronimet Ferroleg. (Ferroalloys) by Jürgen’s father, Günter Pilarsky, is peppered with multiple milestones. Cronimet is a 100% family-owned business comprising the two daughter companies. Cronimet Holding is primarily a stainless and special steel scrap processing and trading company, which were the activities in which the enterprise started its business and are activities that remain at its core. Cronimet’s substantial separate company, Cronimet Mining AG, formed as Cronimet Mining GmbH in 2004. “These are two separate companies and only the shareholder structure is rather similar,” Jürgen Pilarsky explained (MMM April 2019).

Initial expansion began in Germany with the opening of a subsidiary in Düsseldorf, followed by further businesses in Germany. “Then, step by step, the business steadily increased – mainly through partnerships I would like to say,” Pilarsky said. The net widened across Europe. Progressively, joint ventures formed and many of those subsequently became Cronimet subsidiaries. “It has been 40 years that we have been growing, but it was nevertheless sometimes rather fast,” Pilarsky recalled.

The foundation of Cronimet Mining came in 2004. “I always say that it was an opportunity that has unexpectedly arisen and that we have seized. It happened because the Armenian state decided to privatize the mine,” Pilarsky said. “It was a huge step to enter into a mining business,”he added.

Cronimet participated in a tender process, which it won and entered into the mining business. “Today, we are also managing the mine by ourselves. This was a huge development, to develop this knowledge to be able then to manage a  whole mine. It is a totally different business to manage a mine than to run a scrap processing business,” Pilarsky stressed.

Cronimet Holding has four business units: recycling, production, trade & sales and services. In addition to processing stainless scrap, to which some of the company’s locations are exclusively dedicated, at Karlsruhe Cronimet processes titanium and titanium alloys, high-speed steel and tool steel alloys, tungsten carbide, nickel-cobalt and cupronickel. “So in the end we are specialized in alloys,” Pilarsky summarized.

Managing it all

Pilarsky explained that Cronimet’s approach to growth has been to establish good relationships, encourage an entrepreneurial spirit in Cronimet staff, and then to spot and to seize opportunities wherever they arise. Evidence of that spirit is found in item number 1 on Cronimet’s list of corporate values: “We think and act entrepreneurially.”

So how does Pilarsky and the members of his senior management team direct such a large and diverse international business? “We are centralized as we have to be. We have a holding company and the holding company is here in Karlsruhe, where we have financing, HR, and our central business departments. This is to offer these kinds of services to all of our subsidiaries. The holding structure is a service provider for our subsidiaries,” he explained.

“So, the business itself has to be done in all of these subsidiaries. We are not telling them what they have to do tomorrow. They have to be entrepreneurs themselves,” he summarized.

Cronimet is embracing digitalization as an aid to managing its widespread range of operations. “We are making our processes transparent to everybody in Cronimet. For me, this is the most important step that we have to do. We chose SAP about five years ago and we are rolling it out ourselves... This at the end should give us this 100% transparency for everybody,” Pilarsky said.

“The next step will then be to collect all the big data and information, and to create a proper process out of it,” he explained. “Further we want to connect it with our customers and our suppliers.” One of Cronimet’s major European stainless steel mill customers is introducing SAP for example. “This is the future – other industries are doing it already and it is not rocket science,” Pilarsky said.

Solutions for sludges

A relatively recent addition to the Cronimet stable is its Envirotec business, which has a processing plant in Bitterfeld-Wolfen, about 50 km from Leipzig. Cronimet’s Envirotec subsidiary adds a solution for recycling industrial sludges and metal powders.

A chemist and business leader, Cronimet Envirotec’s CEO Filipe Costa holds a PhD in chemistry, for which he wrote his thesis about the use of carbon dioxide as a chemical building block in work that he did in Germany. At the same time, he started to do a three-year modular MBA in Stellenbosch, South Africa. It focused on leadership and ways to think differently on a strategic basis. He said (MMM April 2019) that it demanded a considerable amount of self-analysis and that “It changes the way that you think and makes you more aware of the people around you that you work with.”

He said that a period of operating in “two different worlds” when completing his PhD and working in Germany – in between flying to South Africa for MBA modules – was hard work but also a very stimulating time that broadened his horizons. On completing his PhD, he joined a large chemical company and started work in a laboratory in “a typical corporate job.” The MBA changed his outlook, with its business content and emphasis on entrepreneurial thinking.

After a successful period working with a group of entrepreneurs who founded a company for the pyrolysis of end-of-life vehicle tires, Costa decided to expand his personal development by accepting an offer to join Cronimet. He said that the company has a very collaborative approach to management and that the entrepreneurial approach encouraged by the Cronimet group is also nurtured within Envirotec: “That way the sense of responsibility and accountability grows,” he explained.

To attract and build an innovative management team to run Cronimet Envirotec, the subsidiary company was initially treated as an “incubator” business with an office in a co-working space on the sixth floor of a skyscraper beside the main university buildings in central Leipzig. The trendy ‘start-up vibe’ that the whole working environment offers there paid dividends for Cronimet Envirotec, although Costa stressed that the subsidiary company is well beyond that stage of its development now.

Recycling technology

Cronimet first took interest in an independent business called Destimet Green Services in 2013. Costa said that at the turn of that year into the beginning of 2014, Cronimet already knew about the vacuum distillation technology that the company was developing, but knew little about Destimet as a business. After learning more, Cronimet took a minority share in the company, based on its interest in the technology and its applicability to the metals market. During 2013-15, Cronimet developed its understanding of the business model further and, by the beginning of 2015, decided to acquire a majority share of the company.

Costa joined the business in January 2015. His clear mandate was to develop a strategy focused on the metal market and to integrate the company with, and to broaden the capabilities of, Cronimet itself. “We decided to buy out the company 100% in August 2015,” Costa recalled. “We then had the freedom to reshape the company and implement the strategy that we developed,” he explained. The subsidiary was rebranded to become Cronimet Envirotec in 2016.

Since then, Costa has grown his management team and has fully implemented the benefits of using mobile digital technology. “I have everything I need in here,” he said, pointing to his tablet. The company uses Google G Suite. “We report everything into the cloud, taking advantage of all of the security features they have built in,” said Costa. “That is how we manage our data. We have a policy that we want to have everything readily available on our mobile devices. We work together on documents for example. It makes our life easier,” he explained.

Over the couple of years to early 2019 the company focus was to grow within the metals market, to get to know customers even more, and the technologies they use that produced the waste materials that Envirotec processes. “And at the same time to grow this team and to have the technological proof of concept, to run the plant continuously 24/5, and to implement all of the learning that we had from the previous years of operating the production system,” Costa summarized. Envirotec has also invested in expanding its specialized storage facility for incoming metal sludges and powders while continuing to expand its material processing capabilities.

Given the large and growing range of materials that Envirotec can process, the number of potential customers is large. Costa said that while Envirotec has to be competitive on pricing, “and our growth shows that we are,” the company also focuses on recycling and keeping metals within that loop. “We want to stop the loss of resources,” he added.

Costa concluded that being part of a large family-owned business with a top-level management that has embraced innovation at Envirotec, and across the whole group, is a big advantage.

Advancing innovative technology

President of Fives’ Steel & Glass division, Guillaume Mehlman has a 30-year history of working in a series of major engineering and materials businesses. Armed with a Master’s degree from École Polytechnique, obtained in the mid-1980s, he completed a PhD in Fluid Mechanics from the same establishment while working as an R&D engineer for EADS Defence & Security

A move to Cogema Nuclear Fuel Processing followed, where he successively headed engineering and then became a project manager. In the early 2000s, further senior roles followed, including the post of managing director of Alstom Transport’s Le Creusot plant in France, and a similar position in industrial operation at the head of Areva’s special metals business. A switch to the US at the beginning of 2011, as Alstom Transport’s senior vice president North America, based in New York, saw a four-year period overseeing a $350 million business supplying rolling stock, services, signaling and railway infrastructure. 

He returned to France as managing director of GE Power Services in South West Europe, before joining Fives in November 2016. “It’s really been about learning new things and challenging myself from one position to the next,” said Mehlman (MMM May 2019 issue). “It is what I would call a horizontal career path going from a more fundamental technical background to more operational management type responsibilities,” he explained.

“It’s been very exciting and over the past ten years has involved more exposure to sales and business development,” including those few years back to his original culture while based in the US, where he grew up.

Mehlman sees the variety of industries that he has worked in as an advantage. “I think that helps me to understand the business issues, the technological, the operational, the project and contracting issues from that exposure to energy and rail,” he said.

Main aims

He explained that the main aim of the Steel division of Fives is to be able to maintain a competitive edge against the big players in the industry. “We’re not as integrated upstream as the big players are and so we have to focus on bringing value through technology and services for customers, where our big competitors can play and leverage on other aspects; and they serve clearly the upstream part of the industry whereas we are more on the downstream products. So that is a constant focus and objective of mine to really think where are we going to take the technology and keep being in a position to bring something different or better,” he stressed. That focus includes services as well as innovative technology.

As a group, Fives serves a wide variety of different industries, including aerospace, aluminium, automotive, cement and minerals, energy, glass (for which Mehlman also has responsibility), logistics as well as steel. Mehlman summarized that there are two aspects to leveraging advantage from serving multiple industries: “One is resources –  because basically our DNA is project management in B2B mode for industry –  and the other is in crossing-over technologies.”

The geographical balance of demand for plantmakers has shifted from the boom of past years in China back towards investment by steel producers in Western markets. “That is one shift that we have made within the past two years – addressing the US market, and now the European market where we see investment. And that means changing ways of doing business,” he noted. “The other aspect is that we’ve managed to bring some really innovative technology to the market in the last two years. I would say, for example, our transverse flux induction heating technology, where we have brought into the market some very new and important breakthroughs. And in our cooling technologies for strip processing lines we’ve made very important market introductions,” he added.

China remains a very important market for Fives, but Mehlman noted that plantmakers need to adapt to differences in the priorities and approaches to business of customers in different international regions. “Execution is full of difficulties and there is a different way of addressing them in China than in Europe or the US,” Mehlman noted. “So it means that you have to adapt to that in your way of managing a project. The contract and your contractual requirements are different than in Europe or the US,” he said.

“We see the business is good because it is much more balanced than it was before, with different regional markets to serve, and it’s better for us to manage loads, resources and expertise to serve it. It is a much more interesting time and a better time than when it was much more focused on China a few years ago,” he said.

Multiple mine experience

When deciding which discipline to specialize in when he was at the Engineering School at the University of Chile, Diego Hernandez settled on mining engineering, “an area where you need to know a little of everything because mines are isolated – so you need to understand electricity, mechanics, geology, manage different resources like people, financial, technical. I think that was what attracted me,” he recalled (MMM June 2019 issue). His path to the role of president of Sonami (the Chilean mining society Sociedad Nacional de Minería) subsequently encompassed multiple leading roles in some of the best known mining houses and at some of the world’s largest mines.

After a spell in tin-tantalum mining, he became assistant general manager at the Mantos Blancos copper mine in Chile’s Antofagasta region. “It is at Mantos Blancos that I learned a lot about operations because the mine was underground and open pit with an oxide plant and a concentrator – it was like two mines in one,” Hernandez said.

The opportunity to move to Brazil and develop a project presented itself. Hernandez left Anglo American and joined Rio Tinto at the Morro do Ouro gold operation in Paracatu, Minas Gerais state, just as its feasibility study was approved. “I was number two for the project – firstly working as the counterpart for the engineering firm doing the project and then the rest of the time organizing and preparing the company for production. That’s where I learned how to manage projects,” Hernandez recalled.

Managing big projects

Work completed at that project, he was appointed in charge of the development of new projects at Rio Tinto Brazil, but then received an offer to return to Chile with Anglo to take over a gold project it was just starting. It was a “very tough experience, because we built, commissioned and shut the project down within three years.” The exchange rate and gold prices turned against the project, “plus the gold recovery was not what had been expected from the feasibility study. It was very tough, probably the hardest job I ever had – very good training, but very expensive training,” he added. He noted that Anglo American was incredibly supportive throughout the experience.

Hernandez continued to work with Anglo American in Chile as development manager. The miner had two new copper projects – Manto Verde in the Atacama region and an ambitious plan to develop one pit on top of all the underground mines and open pits of the existing Mantos Blancos operation. He revisited the earlier idea of an enlarged mega-pit at the mine. “When I came back to Mantos Blancos I thought it was too late for the project, but the country manager asked me, ‘why don’t you look into it again?’” Hernandez said. “So we did, and that’s why Mantos Blancos is still alive today. Both projects were very interesting and successful.” he said.

Hernandez became the general manager of Mantos Blancos Company. The management of Compañía Minera Doña Inés de Collahuasi – a joint venture in which Anglo American was a major shareholder – was separate but when the Collahuasi CEO left unexpectedly, Hernandez was offered the role on a temporary basis while the search for a full-time executive took place. He became the mine’s joint venture partners’ choice for the role on a permanent basis. He joined Collahuasi in 1996, as the project secured its financing package and began construction, spending nearly five years at the project including through the mine’s first year of commercial production. All his previous knowledge came together, creating the biggest project worldwide in copper at the time.

Hernandez’ next move was a return to Brazil to work with recently privatized mining firm Vale. It was 2001, and he was in charge of non-ferrous metals, which included Vale’s first copper project, Sossego in Carajás. After a successful period there, Hernandez was offered the role of head base metals for BHP Billiton. “I thought that was a unique opportunity because it was an international job, but based in Santiago,” he said.

He spent six years with the mining giant, running a global portfolio that included the Cannington silver-lead mine in Australia, the Antamina copper-zinc joint venture in Peru, plus the Escondida and Cerro Colorado copper operations in Chile. During his tenure, BHP Billiton also built the Spence copper mine in the Atacama region of Chile. It was during his time at BHP Billiton that Hernandez was nominated for a Copper Club Ankh Award. But by the time of the award ceremony in June 2010, he had left BHP Billiton, having been offered the position of CEO of Chile’s state-owned copper producer, Codelco. A strong sense of national calling swung the tough choice for him.

“It was a challenging time, but I think we did a lot of good things. Among others, we exercised the option to buy back Los Bronces from Anglo American Sur – Codelco eventually succeeded with that,” he said. “It was most unexpected for many people who didn’t believe Codelco could make that kind of move,” he added.

He subsequently became CEO of UK-listed miner Antofagasta Minerals, a role he stayed in until 2017, when he decided to leave executive management positions, becoming president of Sonami. “Working for a business association is a little like a public service because you have to work for the country, the industry,” Hernandez reflected. “My approach has been I take a job, and I enjoy it while I am learning. But there is a moment when the contribution starts to be flat and then it’s time to move. If you don’t have another opportunity in your organization then you don’t need to be ashamed to look somewhere else,” he noted.

Overcoming many challenges Ukrainian steel producer Metinvest has faced seizing of its assets by rebels, military actions right next to its plants, interruptions in raw material supply and debt restructuring over last five years. Over that period, the company was headed by CEO Yuriy Ryzhenkov. He continued to develop Metinvest throughout that challenging period.

Ryzhenkov is originally from Donetsk. “My grandmother worked at a coke plant. My grandfather was a coal miner. My mother and aunt were rolling mill engineers, and my father and uncle were steelworkers,” Ryzhenkov recalled

(MMM July-August 2019 issue). Oleksand Ryzhenkov, Yuriy’s father, headed Donetsk Iron & Steel Works (DMZ) during 1994-2012.
Yuriy Ryzhenkov was appointed as Metinvest’s CEO in December 2013, just before the most challenging time for the company began. “In 2014 a lot of things happened at one time,” Ryzhenkov recalled. “There was a crisis in the steel industry connected with commodities markets, when raw material and steel prices dropped. Then there was a political crisis in Ukraine, and what is more the war had started. [On appointment as Metinvest’s CEO] I could not even imagine that the situation would turn this way in December 2013. I had a completely different view of what I would be focused on,” Ryzhenkov said.

Violent street protests broke out in Kiev in November 2013 against the decision by president Viktor Yanukovich to spurn a trade and cooperation deal with the EU and seek closer ties with Russia instead. Following months of demonstrations, Yanukovich was toppled in February 2014 and, shortly after that, Russian forces took control of the Crimean peninsula. Subsequently, Russia-leaning separatists in the east Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Luhansk took over government buildings there.

By August, damaged infrastructure and destruction at steel and coke-making facilities, as well as power outages, led to serious operational disruptions and sharp drops in output. At that time, all of Metinvest’s Ukrainian steel mills (except for the partly owned Zaporizhstal), as well as the company’s head office, were in the Donetsk region.

In May 2014, both Donetsk and Luhansk regions declared themselves independent according to the results of the hurriedly arranged referendums. Metinvest lost control over its long steel mills Yenakiieve Iron & Steel Works (Yenakiieve Steel), the Makiivka wire rod unit, pipe-making mill Khartsyzsk Pipe and a number of coal assets in March 2016. 

During these years Metinvest’s Avdiivka and Mariupol assets located right next to the demarcation line suffered the most and were considered to be the most insecure, Ryzhenkov said. Nevertheless, at these mills Metinvest faced the lowest level of employee turnover because people were staying there and were defending their enterprises, he added.

Successful debt restructuring

The company’s successful debt restructuring is one of the key changes under Ryzhenkov’s management. In April 2018, Metinvest successfully completed refinancing of its US$2,271 million debt, which was the largest ever among Ukrainian corporations. “We completed the restructuring of the debt in March 2017, while refinancing was done in April the next year. All our consultants were saying that it is unreal, that at least two years were needed. We succeeded to do it in one year.”

The company has also managed to continue ecology-related projects, which were especially important in Mariupol. “Now it can be underestimated and taken as granted, but it should not: in 2015-2016, when within 25-kilometers’ distance there were heavy guns, it was rather hard to continue ecological projects, which has no business effectiveness, just social effectiveness. Despite this, we continued our investments in ecological improvements. For me it is a sign that we have looked far into the future,” Ryzhenkov said.

Metinvest plans to invest further in its production facilities. “That will be related to our products’ quality improvement and the environmental compliance of our mills. We are also planning to move to downstream products output and to focus on key outlets where we can provide our customers with services that our competitors cannot supply,” he said.

“I would like Metinvest to be the company of which all the country is proud. I want Ukrainians to be proud that they have such a national company, which represents the country on the global arena,” he said. “What is Metinvest for me? It is my life. It is not just work. If your job is just work you should change this job. It is should be passion, care and motivation. Thus, for me Metinvest is all together – motivation, care and development of the regions [where mills are located],” Ryzhenkov concluded.

Transforming aluminium smelting

Vincent Christ has been the CEO of ELYSIS™ – a technology joint venture led by Rio Tinto and Alcoa that is setting out to revolutionize the aluminium smelting industry – since its creation in May 2018. He was formerly working in Rio Tinto’s aluminium unit, responsible for the division’s research and development department as well as key investment projects, and held many international posts along the path leading to that role.

With a Bachelor of Science degree under his belt, his first job was for Swiss aluminium producer Alusuisse. Married to his childhood sweetheart Martine, he worked for a couple of years to pay off his student debt before the pair decided to explore the world. “I ended up transferring to a small company owned by Alusuisse that was doing international business in equipment sales and services, and we moved to Venezuela,” he recalled (MMM September 2019). It was 1987, and Vincent described the experience as one of his career highs. “It was paradise! Just imagine, being 27 years old, recently married, living in the tropics with a house and a car, palm trees around us – and a fascinating role in automation,” he added.

During the seven years that he and his growing family lived in Venezuela, his role advanced to country representative, but the family left Venezuela at the end of 1994 because life there was becoming increasingly challenging as political turbulence in the country grew.
The family returned to Zurich, Switzerland, where Vincent became director, smelter technology for Alesa Alusuisse Engineering (AAE), heading global technology sales and transfer in the field of aluminium smelting. Vincent believes that his hands-on, entrepreneurial role over fifteen years at AAE served him well for his future move to his present role.

The parent company Alusuisse was acquired by Canadian aluminium producer Alcan in 2000. In 2002, a senior Alcan executive suggested Vincent move to the combined group’s head office in Montreal. In 2003, he relocated and joined the Alcan Primary Metal group as director of engineering and maintenance, taking charge of some large smelter expansions. That same year, Alcan acquired French aluminium company Pechiney, which added its engineering personnel to his direct reports.

In 2006, he joined the Alcan bauxite and alumina division as vice president, technology. A major acquisition was ahead: Rio Tinto purchased Alcan in 2007, and moved the bauxite and alumina headquarters to Brisbane, Australia. But within a year of the move, the 2008 global financial crisis hit. The slump in aluminium demand and prices that followed saw producers slash output, curtail operations and projects, plus cut costs, which meant Vincent’s role in the merged bauxite and alumina department as general manager, technology,
“vanished.”
The family returned to Montreal and he became Rio Tinto aluminium’s vice president for value improvement. From mid-2011, he headed Rio Tinto aluminium’s global technology and equipment sales & services business – the 2,500-strong international unit that included his former employer, AAE. For strategic reasons, Rio Tinto eventually decided the division’s businesses were non-core, and he was put in charge of the divestment process.  It went well, he says. “The three companies I divested are today in good shape, and are core businesses where they landed. It was a good outcome,” he added.

“My international experience is an important element in helping me get to ELYSIS. We don’t, for example, drive for consensus or rule that the boss decides – we try for the best decision, no matter how we get there,” he said. “We’re very inclusive and at the same time, if we take a decision on Monday and realise on Tuesday that it wasn’t any good, then we change it,” he added.

“In an entrepreneurial environment there are no barriers to personal growth other than a willingness to do it. I assembled the team so that everyone could find their sweet spot, and I believe people will thrive as long as they grow in their roles,” he said.

“This the best job I’ve ever had in my career, and with the best team I’ve ever had the privilege to lead. It is unbelievable, frankly, unbelievable.  I really am selling a dream!”

ELYSIS is scheduled to have a technology package for sale beginning in 2024. Vincent said that uniting different cultures of companies, countries and individuals in an environment that can thrive is something that he pays particular attention to. “Teamwork is a fundamental value – if we don’t live that value every day, we’re not going to succeed. I think we’re doing extremely well on this. Today if someone from outside looked at ELYSIS, they wouldn’t be able to tell which company anyone came from. It’s a really integrated team,” he added.

The primary focus of the new technology venture will be to develop and license its technology so that it can be used to retrofit existing smelters or build new ones. While Vincent said that  shareholders Rio Tinto and Alcoa will take full advantage of that opportunity, the company also plans to offer commercial packages for international licensing by 2024.

Transforming the LME

Matthew Chamberlain joined the LME in 2012, having previously advised HKEX on the acquisition of the LME while working for UBS in mergers & acquisitions, providing financial technology coverage

His first job after leaving university – he was awarded an MA in computer science from the University of Cambridge, where he was at Trinity College – was at Citibank during 2004-06, from where he was head-hunted for Perella Weinberg.

“Perella Weinberg were starting from scratch. They needed some raw talent to come and join them,” Chamberlain recalled (MMM October 2019). At Citibank, Chamberlain had also done financial institutions coverage, such as bank M&A.

Chamberlain was in the financial Institutions coverage team at Perella Weinberg Partners, a global financial services firm founded in 2006 by Joseph R. Perella and Peter Weinberg. He joined it in the year of its foundation. “It has some of the real titans of the M&A industry... There was just a certain excitement to what they were doing, which is why I left Citibank at a very junior stage and went to work for them.”

“Sometimes I just think that you need to accelerate your career by trying something new. I really enjoyed my years there – because it was a very small team when I started, particularly in London... – and the opportunities it offered, simply because I was the only one in financials historically and they gave me a lot of headroom and a lot of opportunity, and I am very grateful for that. Sometimes you have got to find people who will take a chance on you and that was a great time of my life. It is still a great business doing really well.”

At the LME, Chamberlain served in the roles of head of business development, COO and head of strategy before his appointment as CEO. “During his time at the LME, Matthew has led the LME’s warehousing reform process, the deployment of the new London platinum and palladium prices and the LMEprecious initiative,” stated the exchange’s website list of board member short biographies.

If Chamberlain were to update that biography there now, what would he add? “Among the things I’m most proud of it’s warehousing – but warehousing with a constant eye to keeping it updated – and the Strategic Pathway. I’d probably add to that now, hopefully, responsible sourcing.”

Chamberlain is an experienced and effective communicator, but where does a talent for clear communication come from? “I think that I’ve just been lucky that a lot of people – I’m thinking of when I was a kid – my parents, my teachers, challenged me to have thoughts and communicate,” he replied. “Having kids of my own now, I think one of the biggest things that you can give them is just a willingness to voice their opinions and to challenge them (obviously in a nice way when you’re conversing with a four-year old!) to formulate their views and put them across and to be supportive of them and to be proud of them. I’m really lucky that in my childhood people took time to do that with me.”

The LME wants to upgrade its trading platform because, although LMEselect does the job now, the exchange has become more ambitious as it looks at new products, more electronification and things like implied pricing. “We’re running up against the limits of what our current platform can deliver... We looked at new solutions – a key element of what we looked at was whether we could leverage the Hong Kong solution into a metals trading platform,” he said. “We decided that is the route we want to take, so there is now a very ambitious joint project between London and Hong Kong.”

The LME plans that it will go live in late-2021. “It’s a big lift, but what it’s allowed us to do is to take  our view of market structure and the most difficult part of the Strategic Pathway, put them into this project and really build a trading platform from the  ground up.”

Serving metal recycling

While still in high school, Tom Wendt accompanied his father Thomas Wendt Sr. to a conference held by the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries where he was fascinated by the diversity of the audience. They ranged from owner operators to large publicly traded companies and everything in between, all dedicated to operating their businesses profitably and making a positive impact on the environment. Wanting to contribute to the growth of the family business, he decided to work in the recycling industry to provide equipment that would help to make better use of the world’s resources.

Today, Tom leads Wendt Corporation, Buffalo, N.Y., one of the world’s largest technology-driven manufacturers of a wide range of recycling equipment for ferrous and non-ferrous scrap management. The firm has customers throughout the Americas and Europe, and is working with potential clients in Asia, including India, the newest developing markets for recycling.

Upon graduation from Canisius College, Tom spent 10 years in sales for Wendt before being named president, at age 35, in 2011. The company’s portfolio of products and services has grown steadily over the past 42 years as the firm has evolved from an organization servicing recycling machinery to an agent for the products made by others to eventually become a full-scale design and manufacturing firm.

Today, Wendt Corporation offers a full range of products for the ferrous and non-ferrous recycling industry from the shredder infeed conveyor through the recovery and finishing of non-ferrous metals.  

While the leadership of the family-owned and operated business has changed – Thomas Wendt Sr. serves as chairman in a largely advisory role – there are many things about Wendt Corporation that have transcended the generations. “One leg we stand on is continuous development of our products. But we also have become technical partners to our customers through systems and process innovation. We leverage the technology of our partners to provide a comprehensive solution that is state of the art, fully integrated and proven to perform. That is different from the past, where a technology company would introduce a new product, and scrap companies would have to figure out how to use it,” said Tom (MMM November-December 2019).

During the evolution of the Wendt brand, one mainstay has been embracing the latest technology. Wendt takes a two-pronged approach – developing its own innovations in a captive technology center and partnering with providers of world-class technology. In 2013, Wendt opened a technology center “to further differentiate ourselves in the market by developing products in house,” said Tom. “Together with our partners, we are investing significant resources into technology and processes to recycle more of the world’s scrap and waste streams.  I find it very satisfying to know that we play an important role in helping to recycle the world’s scrap and waste.”

To support future growth, last year Wendt announced several strategic initiatives to support accelerated growth. One involved establishing a regional sales force. Another has expanded the service department into two groups – parts and technical support along with field service, which has doubled its staff, and a technical support group. This structure supports the growing Wendt installations while also expanding its service related product offerings. 

“I believe that our industry is always searching for a competitive edge, and our business is built around providing that for our customers.  If recent history is any indication of the future, when markets are soft, we’ve remained busy and simply grown our market share. Long term, I feel great about where we are and that we will continue to grow,” Tom concluded.

Transforming company strategy

Alexander Shevelev, CEO of Russian steelmaker Severstal, has held multiple roles on his path to the role, each of which have added valuable experience for him to lead a business that employs 50,000 people as well as to execute the company’s over-arching vision to become “the leader of steel industry of the future”. 

He was born [in 1974] near Cherepovets. “I finished state education and studied to become a mechanical engineer. My second education was about economics and management, and the third was a general MBA,” he recalled
(MMM January 2020).

Shevelev started work on the shop floor 22 years ago, in 1997, in a Cherepovets steel rolling mill that is a subsidiary of Severstal’s steel plant there. He recalls the steps from working on the shop floor to the boardroom well. “I built my career in this plant. After I was a worker, I became a supervisor, the head of the shop floor; then head of the strategic department, the technical director and then the executive director of the Cherepovets site. Then I became CEO of Severstal’s metalware businesses, which produce finished products from steel, such as ropes, mesh and fasteners.” That post gave him the opportunity to feel [what it is like to be] a customer of the steel industry, “because we bought product from the metallurgical plant at Cherepovets – but not only  from Cherepovets but also from the market.” That gave him the opportunity from the customer side to interact with his colleagues from the metallurgical plant.

From the role of CEO of Severstal’s metalware businesses, he received an offer from the local government to become first deputy mayor of Cherepovets city. “It was very exciting for me and it was an absolutely different way and track for me but, because I had already experienced more than 15 years in the steel business, it was really interesting for me,” he recalled.

He was in the post for a year or so. “I had to be focused on solving these problems because, in business, I have to demonstrate results. I was quite effective there because I received an offer from the regional government, which was a high position to be deputy governor.” He accepted that offer too and moved from Cherepovets to Vologda, which is the region’s centre. But after working for only three months in that position, he received another offer from Alexey Mordashov, Severstal’s majority shareholder and chairman, to go back to the company.

Shevelev returned as CEO of the group’s hardware business for six months before becoming CEO of AO Severstal Management in December 2016. He highly values systems and opportunities to communicate with the company’s staff, managers and customers. He prizes working with many different people, with multiple emotions. “Each of us has emotions – there are your own emotions and the emotions of other people, and if you are a manager working with a number of people you should understand these emotions and take them into account and use it in a positive way for a result, and not to destroy something but to create something,” he said. “It is a way that I constantly investigate and try to use and improve,” he added. He uses the full gamut of modern digital ways to foster and achieve effective and open communication and receive feedback from Severstal’s thousands of employees.

Severstal’s recent priorities have included cost leadership, creation of great customer experience and investments in new opportunities. “We have changed our culture quite quickly and substantially. We launched a number of agile teams that are working with customers. We work with cross-functional teams with short periods focusing on results, and we have a lot of programmes receiving new skills etc.” These changes have already achieved good results, he summarized.

In what direction is he leading the company now? “I have a great opportunity to move my company from its current position in the local market to be a real leader in the future steel industry,” he said.

“I am going to transform our company from a production site to a real customer-centric company that will use not only technology for metallurgy, but implement it and use a modern business model that is digital.” He noted that there are many digital business models at other successful companies to emulate. “We will not only provide products and service, but will be a solutions provider. It is a challenge for me and for my team and I think if I manage it, I will be really happy. It is my target for the near future.”

Deep knowledge of finance

New LME chair Gay Huey Evans has a great depth of experience in financial services. Graduating from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, with a BA in economics, Huey Evans moved, age 22, to New York and started work at PaineWebber. She was one of two women on the trading floor; her female colleague did corporate sales. It was the beginning of the fixed income market, when financial futures contracts were just being introduced. “People really didn’t know how to trade interest rate futures against cash at that time. It was fascinating. Then PaineWebber wanted to set up a money markets department; that’s how I started,” she recalled (MMM February 2020).

Back then, the financial markets were “a wild world,” she said, but “you didn’t think about it because you just loved it. It was a job that was interesting, not a career. New York in the 1970s was a fun place to be, particularly if you were young. You played and worked hard,” she added.
From PaineWebber she moved to Bankers Trust, where she worked in the capital markets division. “That was the new world – derivatives. Nobody knew what a swap or an option was. It was an exciting but challenging place.” Covering mostly US financial institutions on the US east coast as well as foreign, in particular Japanese, institutions, Huey Evans says she “still didn’t think of it as a career. It was a job. At that time, I did not think I was going to work in banking my entire life.”

While she was trading FX and currency derivatives at Bankers Trust, the bank developed commodity derivatives. “We set up Enron’s venture into commodities, initially as a joint venture and then Enron took the whole project,” she added. She continued in New York until 1990, before taking an opportunity to move to London.

It was in London that Huey Evans recognized how much she enjoyed working. “It took a long time to get there, and when I did, I wanted to do the right job but definitely to also keep working. Then I realized I probably had a career,” she added.

Huey Evans had been on the board of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA), a trade association for derivatives dealers and other market participants, since 1990. She was asked to co-chair it, but ended up becoming its chair in 1994.

ISDA addressed, and continues to address, problems – either through codes of conduct, improved documentation, reducing or eliminating legal risks, developing protection against counterparty bankruptcy, maintaining good industry relationships with regulators, and responding to regulatory and legislative concerns, including testifying in Washington, she added.

It was what Huey Evans described as a “growing-up period” in her life. “I learned much about different stakeholders and people’s interests, including politicians and lawyers,” she reflected.

In 1998, Huey Evans was approached by Howard Davies, then chairman of the newly established FSA, to join him at the regulator. She was tasked with setting up the FSA markets division, where she stayed until 2005.

Its work involved regulation of markets, including exchanges, and provided her with an ongoing involvement with the LME. “The first thing I learned about the LME was the Hamanaka crisis, which had happened in 1996 but was still being cleaned up,” Huey Evans said. “Getting to know how people can get stuck in positions and don’t want to recognize losses is an age-old problem that happens over and over again in all markets. Why there were no risk systems around it to monitor it, I have no idea. It just tells you that even then, commodities were in a different world,” she added.

“The FSA role was broad, which I enjoyed. I learned so much about regulation, government and myself,” she said.

After leaving the FSA in 2005, Huey Evans moved to Citi for three years, where she had roles including head of governance, Citi Alternative Investments EMEA. In 2008, she became Barclays Capital vice chair of investment banking and investment management, and was responsible for Barclays’ relationships with sovereign funds globally.

The approach for the LME role came through a headhunter. Huey Evans had turned down several opportunities before the LME job emerged because the roles did not entice her. But attracted by the tangible nature of commodities, Huey Evans said the real draw for her in taking the LME chair role was the people she would be working with. “There’s a great team at the LME – I don’t go anywhere that I don’t like and respect the people. I have learned that over the years,” she noted.

“The LME is a unique market and it will be a challenge to understand all the nuances – clearly it will keep the brain going and make me think about what the future of our exchange is,” she said.

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