People: Appreciate Group; Brabners; Parfetts; TLT; Compass Group

Gareth Griffiths

Appreciate Group, the Liverpool-based business which includes the Love2shop, Park Christmas Savings and highstreetvouchers.com brands, has appointed experienced lawyer Gareth Griffiths as its new general counsel and company secretary.

Griffiths joins the AIM-listed firm’s senior management team and will lead the company’s legal, risk and compliance functions, providing support and advice to the board and wider business.

He brings more than 15 years’ experience in senior roles including as a director-level consultant and senior lawyer at a range of blue chip firms and corporate organisations across consumer financial services.

Griffiths will play a key role in helping the business navigate change while supporting the achievement of strategic objectives.

He said: “I’m delighted to have joined Appreciate Group at such an important time for the business. It’s clear the company has ambitious plans to grow its market through its portfolio of popular prepayment, gifting and engagement solutions.

“I’m confident my experience will strengthen the Appreciate Group leadership team as it continues to lead its industry in terms of innovation.”

Chief executive, Ian O’Doherty, said: “Gareth brings with him a wealth of legal experience, but also a deep understanding of financial services and why it matters to put our customers, partners and clients at the front of our decision making.

“I have every faith that Gareth will be a real asset to our leadership team and will play a significant part in supporting our continued transformation to a digital-first business.”

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Brabners’ Preston office has continued its recent growth by adding solicitor Beth Middleton to its contentious probate litigation team and solicitor Trishna Modessa-Parekh to its employment and pensions team.

Beth Middleton joins from Stephensons Solicitors, having qualified as a solicitor in 2019. She has a strong background in contentious wills and probate litigation, including disputes involving wills, probate and estate administration.

Beth Middleton

Beth’s appointment comes after a busy period for Brabners’ contentious probate team, following a spike in the number of contentious inheritance claims and contested wills across Lancashire – a trend consistent with the rest of the UK.

She will work alongside head of litigation, Tom Smith, and associate, Stephanie Kerr, who joined Brabners in 2019. Stephanie recently celebrated becoming Preston’s first full member of the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS), a prestigious body that accredits the UK’s leading wills and inheritance dispute lawyers.

Litigation partner Tom Smith said: “Our contentious probate team continues to go from strength to strength, attracting outstanding talent in the market to meet the surge in demand for contentious inheritance claims and contested wills. With her expertise in probate disputes and estate administration, Beth will be a fantastic addition to the team.”

Trishna joins Brabners’ 39-member strong employment and pensions team from Forbes Solicitors. She has more than three years’ experience advising business leaders and HR professionals on day-to-day employment issues, business restructures and litigious matters.

Trishna Modessa-Parekh

She will work closely with Christine Hart, a senior associate based in Brabners’ Preston office, who joined the firm in 2019, as well as with the wider regional team. Trishna joins as the firm experiences a significant growth in demand for its employment services, with many businesses looking for additional help and support to navigate COVID-19 and Brexit developments.

Trishna takes a commercial and pragmatic approach to advising her clients, and particularly enjoys getting involved with tribunal work. She also has experience with assisting on employment aspects of mergers and acquisitions with potential TUPE implications, carrying out due diligence and drafting consultancy agreements.

Nick Campbell, partner and head of employment at the Liverpool and Preston offices of Brabners, said: “Trishna has extensive experience advising businesses on complex employment issues, and is known in the market for her exceptional client service. We’re pleased to welcome her to the team, and we’re committed to growing our practice to meet the growth in demand from businesses across the region, as they navigate Brexit developments and the ongoing impact of the pandemic.”

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Stockport-based wholesaler Parfetts has appointed Gurminder Athwal as trading director to support its plans as it continues to expand its depot network and Go Local symbol group.

Mr Athwal, or ‘Gurms’, is well known in the industry and brings a wealth of experience after 20 years at Hyperama. He will lead a respected trading team as the company continues to grow.

Gurminder Athwal

Greg Suszczenia, joint managing director at Parfetts, said: “I am delighted that Gurms agreed to join Parfetts and welcome his skill set and personality into our business. We have been wanting to strengthen our board for some time and knew Gurms well by being part of the same buying groups over the years.

“We have lots of exciting plans for Gurms to dial into in 2021, from our online trade show in May, fascia growth, own-label development and geographical expansion through logistics. We continue to trade up plus 40% year-on-year and aim to consolidate our turnover growth, running at £½bn, into the recovery.”

Parfetts added 150 stores to its Go Local symbol group in 2020 taking it to 650 in total and is on track to achieve its goal of 1,000 members. The company is investing £1.5m into its infrastructure and facilities and is extending its Aintree and Sheffield depots to increase capacity for its delivered operation.

Gurms Athwal said: “I really look forward to developing my supplier relationships with Parfetts and using that to grow sales within our customers’ shops. I will enjoy working with suppliers, customers and the Parfetts team to support the continued growth of the business.”

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Claire Graham, partner at law firm TLT, has been appointed to the board of the new North West Fraud Forum (NWFF).

The forum brings together leading fraud professionals from across the public and private sector to help businesses combat the increasing threat of fraud and cybercrime.

Launching on January 26, the NWFF will host a range of learning and networking events, an annual conference and regular information and updates through a dedicated website and communications.

Claire, a certified investigator based in TLT’s Manchester office, has a wealth of knowledge and expertise in fraud investigations and dispute resolution.
She has more than 20 years’ commercial litigation experience, including on insolvency matters, breach of fiduciary duties and civil recovery actions. She is also a key adviser to the Insolvency Service.

Claire said: “Our firm has an acute awareness of the serious threat posed by fraud and cybercrime to businesses, individual victims and the wider community through our practice areas. I feel very strongly about playing our part in helping to combat and reduce these crimes, and the North West Fraud Forum will help to protect these businesses.

Claire Graham

“The shift to digital living and working brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a sharp rise in cybercrime and fraud, so initiatives like this play a vital role in encouraging the collaboration and expertise needed to fight back against criminals.”

She added: “We look forward to working with the NWFF in the detection and prevention of fraud and are confident that our involvement will also mean we are better placed than ever to advise our clients on these matters, including in the financial services sector.”

The forum is the first of its kind in the North West and has been established by the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, the City of London Police and the London Fraud Forum with the collective goal of reducing and managing fraud crime in the region.

The board is chaired by Sergeant Shifa Chowdhury Jones from the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit. Organisations on the board include the Federation of Small Businesses, City of London Police, PKF Littlejohn, NAFN Data and Intelligence Services, NHS Counter Fraud Authority, The Insolvency Service, The Government Internal Audit Agency, Trading Standards, UK Finance, Asset Reality, Cifas, and it’s supported by annual partner LexisNexis Risk Solutions.

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Compass Group UK and Ireland has used its apprenticeship levy to fund five apprentices at St Ann’s Hospice, Greater Manchester, one of the oldest and largest adult hospices outside of London.

The levy transfer will fund two apprentice production chefs, two apprentice healthcare cleaning operatives and one apprentice HR qualification, all taking place over a 12-18 month learning programme. This means the hospice is able to develop and up-skill five of its existing employees, providing them with an opportunity to obtain a qualification and develop their career.

These five apprentices form part of the army of key workers who have kept St Ann’s Hospice running smoothly since the pandemic started.

St Ann’s provides care and support for thousands of patients and families every year from its three sites in Heald Green, Little Hulton and The Neil Cliffe Centre at Wythenshawe Hospital, as well as via a range of community and outreach services. It has also recently launched a range of online support services and virtual access for patients and their loved ones from across Greater Manchester and parts of Cheshire.

From left: Julie Cecil, Jennifer Jordon and Monika Mannin

St Ann’s Hospice has an excellent track record with apprentices, supporting six in 2020, one of which had successfully completed their qualification. The hospice will support a further four clinical-focused apprenticeships this year, and with the help of the Compass sponsorship, a further five support services development opportunities have been created to enable individuals to learn their trade. Apprenticeships play an important role at the hospice and the additional funds are a significant investment in non-clinical focused staff development.

Rachel McMillan, St Ann’s chief executive, said: “We are extremely grateful to Compass Group UK and Ireland for supporting the hospice in this way. At St Ann’s we pride ourselves on providing world class care to patients and their loved ones, and we can only do that thanks to the amazing team of staff and volunteers that support them. These apprenticeships are a great way for us to continue to invest in the development of our teams and help us to ensure we remain an organisation of choice well into the future too.”

Jonathan Foot, head of apprenticeships and early careers, Compass Group UK and Ireland, said: “We are dedicated to supporting local people and communities, so we are delighted that we have been able to use our levy to support another business in their vision to create a career pathway for their non-clinical employees.”

The apprenticeship levy fund was introduced in 2017 to create long term and sustainable funding for apprenticeships. Compass Group is currently supporting more than 300 apprentices in its own business, but has surplus levy funds, which can be used to help smaller employers, like St Ann’s Hospice, pay for the training and assessment costs of apprenticeships.

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