UK Metals Expo Q&A: Outokumpu’s Simon Marsden
Outokumpu’s head of UK sales Simon Marsden said that highlighting the value of low-CO2 stainless steel in a price-driven market will be a key focus at the UK Metals Expo.
Marsden will join MEPS International senior consultant Kaye Ayub on stage when she hosts the free-to-attend expo’s ‘Stainless Steel Market: Exploring Trends and Price Dynamics’ panel debate a week from today.
Ayub will host a separate debate focussing on the carbon steel market on the following day of the event which is taking place at the NEC Birmingham on September 13/14.
In a Q&A that reflected on his near-20 years in steel, Marsden suggested that remaining competitive while pursuing sustainability could be the steel sector’s biggest challenge yet. Read on for his full interview:
How did you start your career in the steel sector?
Next year I will have worked for Outokumpu for 20 years. I started when the Outokumpu service centre was based in Birmingham. That was then closed and moved up to Sheffield. A lot of the sales team didn’t make the move so there was quite a large recruitment push. I was selling safety clothing for Arco at the time and, it wasn’t so much that I wanted to enter the steel industry as I was 22 and wanted another challenge. It was a steep learning curve. There is so much information to learn in the sector and I’ve done my best to support and train others in the years since. Even now, barely a week goes by I don’t learn something new. Having started as an internal salesperson and loving that, I moved on to become an account manager and really enjoyed traveling and meeting customers. For 15 years of my time with Outokumpu, I was focussed on the end users and found it really interesting.
How did you progress to the job you have today?
There was no master plan. When opportunities arose in the business I applied. I’ve never been afraid of change, or a challenge, and my experience has grown over time to ensure I generally know what I’m talking about. If you’d told me when I started that I’d eventually be in charge of UK sales I don’t think I would have believed you, and the great thing is that I really enjoy it.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
At heart, I’m a salesman and I love securing a deal. Gaining new customers is always great, but our main aim at Outokumpu is to offer excellent service, so some of the best rewards come from contract renewals. It’s really reassuring when we forge a long-lasting relationship. It means we’re looking after people the right way, and we think that is something we do very well. I also love working with the team and helping to train and develop our people. We’ve done a really good job of recruiting people of a variety of ages, with a range of experience, and really helping them to succeed. One advantage has been home working, which has allowed a wider pool of people to embrace opportunities.
What is the biggest day-to-day challenge faced by your business?
The stainless steel industry has changed quite a lot for us in the last few years. Since the UK left the EU, we have lost some of that protection from imports. The way the market is currently poised, price is a hot topic. Prices have come down in recent months and stabilised now but trying to get those back up is going to be a big challenge. The other big challenge is keeping prices competitive as we invest in reducing CO2 emissions. Outokumpu now offers its Circle Green stainless steel, which is the lowest CO2 product in the market. We don’t employ carbon offsetting. It is a careful selection of raw materials, including scrap, combined with refined processes and the use of 80 percent renewable electricity in the production process that has allowed us to reach that point. The difficulty we have is making customers aware of the value of that in the face of cheaper products without those green credentials.
Do you foresee a standout ‘hot topic’ for the UK Metals Expo?
Outokumpu will place a huge focus on sustainability at the UK Metals Expo. Becoming greener is a huge focus for us. That said, for most people price remains the key focus at the moment, so I think that will always be at the forefront of people’s minds.
What do you hope to take away from the event?
I think the most interesting thing will be businesses getting together from various sectors and debating the issues that most affect them. That will be really constructive. I also think it is great that the UK Metals Expo is clearly showing signs of growth. We’ll be able to take a number of our team and that’s not always been the case for other events which have traditionally been held in mainland Europe.
The ‘Stainless Steel Market: Exploring Trends and Price Dynamics’ panel debate will take place at the UK Metals Expo’s Supply Chain, Trade and Policy Theatre between 12.30 and 1.20pm on September 13.
Registration is now open for the free-to-attend UK Metals Expo, which is billed as the only event of 2023 to bring the entire metals supply chain together with engineering and manufacturing.
Outokumpu will be located on Stand J25 at the Expo. MEPS International is on Stand C8.
Attendees can book a free one-to-one consultation with a MEPS steel market analyst or visit for an informal chat. Visitors to the MEPS stand will also have the chance to win a hospitality package with Premier League Sheffield United.