People: Reward Finance Group; Irwin Mitchell; Holker; Two Stories; Agricultural Mortgage Corporation; H&H Insurance Brokers

From left: Lisa Cooper and Paula Robertson

Alternative finance company, Reward Finance Group, has strengthened its Manchester team with the appointment of two new relationship managers.

Paula Robertson and Lisa Cooper bring extensive financial sector experience to their new roles, which have been created to support Reward’s growing list of SME customers seeking short to medium term lending solutions.

Having worked at RBS for 14 years, Paula’s most recent position was senior risk onboarding manager for a division specialising in providing working capital. Her experience in assessing and structuring deals for clients, and collaborating with a wider team to ensure the product offering is the right fit for the client, will prove particularly beneficial to Reward’s clients, the business said.

Lisa joins Reward after relocating back to her native Cheshire after 30 years in West Yorkshire. She has worked predominantly in the invoice finance market throughout her career, including roles with Lloyds Commercial Finance. For the past four years, Lisa worked in sales and operations in debt collection, covering both commercial and consumer recovery.

Lisa said: “I have watched Reward’s growth over the last few years from a distance and have always heard great feedback in relation to them providing a quick, flexible approach to funding. When I was offered the role, I had no hesitation in accepting, and I am looking forward to many happy years ahead.”

Paula said: “I have worked in finance for 14 years and wanted to remain within the sector. When the opportunity came about to join the team at Reward, I jumped at it, as they have an excellent reputation for keeping things simple and delivering on their promises. Its experienced team of ‘go getters’ certainly create an exciting working environment and I am looking forward to working with them all to help SMEs flourish.”

Their appointment means Reward now has a team of 13 in its Manchester office, which is one of five regional bases for the funding specialist following recent openings in Birmingham, London and Edinburgh, in addition to its existing Leeds office.

Steve Noble, managing director of Reward Finance Group’s North West division, said: “Paula and Lisa bring a mix of experience that makes them superb additions to the Manchester team, and we’re delighted to have them on board. I know they will make an important contribution to Reward’s success in growing our regional client base, which has gone from strength to strength since we opened in the city five years ago.”


Law Firm Irwin Mitchell has consolidated its education and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) department with a new senior appointment.

Gurvinder Kaur joins the firm as a new associate, fresh from running her own legal consultancy for the past six years.

A qualified solicitor for 14 years, Gurvinder specialises in SEND, focusing on cases concerning education, social care and public and human rights law.

Having led and established public law departments in previous firms, Gurvinder’s expertise has been recognised by Chambers and the Legal 500 for her work with young people post-16 and for children with brain injuries.

A trustee of the children’s charity VICTA, Gurvinder has wide experience of SEND cases nationwide and continues to work closely with a number of charities, various parent carer forums, professionals, schools and families.

Gurvinder Kaur

Gurvinder’s appointment in Manchester follows a period of expansion for the public law team. Kirsty MacMillan joined in November as the new public law lead in Birmingham, while the London office welcomed Angela Jackman QC (Hon) as a new partner in September, all senior hires, with strong backgrounds of support for clients and success in high profile cases.

Gurvinder, said: “Joining Irwin Mitchell was an easy decision to make, given the firm shares my own commitment to going the extra mile in supporting clients and with an established reputation for success in education and SEND cases. I’m looking forward to helping the team in building on this success in the months and years ahead and supporting my new colleagues.”

Yogi Amin, partner and head of public law and human rights at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Gurvinder has had a distinguished career in education and social care and is very well respected in the sector. Her skills will be a real asset as we emerge from the pandemic and step up to the evolving needs of our clients in need of education law support and addressing their needs and concerns.

“We’re now looking to advance our work throughout the country and someone of Gurvinder’s calibre and expertise will be an important addition during this next key phase of our development and it’s a real pleasure to welcome her to Manchester and our wider public law and human rights team.”


Burnley IT business, Holker, has made three new appointments to strengthen its sales and support teams.

Graham Jackson, Matt Phillipson and Lindsey Ryan bring an additional 47 years of IT experience. In fact, all of them have worked in the Crown House building on the Network 65 Business Park when it was Lanway then Chess ,the same place MD Matthew Metcalfe worked as an engineer.

Matthew founded Holker IT in 2009 after spending more than 10 years learning his trade. He has continued to identify and recruit talent and grow the business.

From left: Matthew Metcalfe, Matt Phillipson, Lindsey Ryan, Graham Jackson

Graham, from Whitefield, joins the team as senior account manager. He has years of expertise in managed services, cyber security, IT infrastructure and virtualisation, with corporate clients in the manufacturing and food and hospitality sectors.

Matt, from Burnley, has been working in IT since leaving college. Recruited as head of service, Matt brings additional leadership, structure, strategies and engagement, and a desire to drive further improvements within the growing business.

Matt said: “It’s good to work with Matthew again. He’s a passionate character and you want to work with driven people who want to make a difference.”

Lindsey, from Padiham, has been brought in to look after renewals and leads on the quoting, pricing, licences and warranties. Lindsey is the lynchpin between sales and technology, ensuring customers are happy and that their equipment and services are working as they should be.

Matthew Metcalfe said: “Graham, Matt and Lindsey have already fitted well into the team and each is a great asset for Holker and join at a very exciting time for us. We are an ambitious company. We are on the right path and putting the right people in place to come with us on the journey.”


Lancaster brand consultancy and design studio Two Stories has announced a new senior appointment, following a host of client and project wins.

Former head of design at full service digital marketing agency Fat Media, Bridget Halldearn, joins the creative studio to further strengthen its design offering as the business sees significant growth.

With seven new clients, across a variety of sectors, having appointed the team over the past two months, as well as new projects and increased retainers with existing clients, such as Channel 4’s 4Sales, Two Stories is on track to double its turnover for the third year running.

Bridget Halldearn

Four national clients – League One Morecambe Football Club, global OOH agency Evolve, live events, digital and film agency Glasgows, and events industry carbon impact tool Trace – and three regional clients – including South East coast property developers MPL Group, and Lancaster-based corporate cleaning business LCD Support Services – will join the consultancy’s roster.

Bekkie Hull, creative director and co-founder of Two Stories, said: “We’ve had a fantastic start to 2022, with a series of national and regional client wins and new work from our existing client base, which is all credit to the quality of the creative work and service we’re delivering as a studio.

“Bridget’s appointment has seen our team double in the past year, to support our significant growth in client base. We’re absolutely delighted to have such an exceptional designer join us – Bridget’s creativity, experience, and passion for design will help us keep achieving our ambitions as a studio and enable us to continue to provide the most creative solutions for our clients.”


The Agricultural Mortgage Corporation (AMC) has boosted its provision for rural businesses in the North of England with the creation of a new specialist support role, following a period of strong loan applications in the region.

Amber Akhtar-Ahmad has been appointed to support AMC’s network of regional agricultural managers (RAMs) and joins a team of nine RAMs and more than 280 land agents that provide financial expertise, funding, and guidance to around 4,000 farming businesses across the North of England.

She steps into the new role, which is effective immediately, having already worked for the AMC for five years. Amber previously had responsibility for AMC’s loan completions across the North, which included overseeing the production of legal documents and managing relationships with clients and professionals in relation to the correct charging of security against property.

Amber Akhtar-Ahmad

Amber will now work alongside AMC’s team of RAMs and independent land agents who carry out the business’s loan application and valuation work across the region. Her new remit will cover the AMC’s biggest geographical region in the UK, reaching down from the Scottish Borders to as far south as Hertfordshire and Essex, and across to Cumbria and Cheshire.

Amber said: “The North of England remains a key area of focus for AMC and I’m looking forward to helping rural businesses across the region to achieve their growth objectives, whatever their focus and ambitions for the future may be. 2021 was a strong year for loan applications in the region, so we have good momentum to build on throughout 2022 and beyond.”

Lee Baker, AMC’s national sales director, said: “Amber brings considerable experience and knowledge to this new role and further complements the existing strengths of AMC’s team in the North of England. As British farming continues to navigate a period of considerable change, we recognise the need to constantly strive to improve and strengthen our capability and investing in our team is an important part of this.”

A former trainee has risen through the ranks to become head of operations at Carlisle-based H&H Insurance Brokers.

Kally Shane leads the team of account handlers, administrators and apprentices at the independent firm, which operates across the North of England, the Scottish Borders and Wales.

Kally, who joined as trainee account handler 12 years ago, is now part of the firm’s leadership team, reporting to managing director, Paul Graham.

Kally Shane

She said: “I enjoy working with clients and ensuring they have peace of mind when it comes to insurance and a great experience with us. We have a fantastic team who are all dedicated and committed to delivering a first class service for our clients.”

The firm arranges a broad portfolio of insurance for farmers, agricultural contractors, and all types of rural businesses. It also operates in the commercial, tourism and hospitality, and property sectors, and offers a number of specialist products. It has offices in Carlisle, Durham, Newtown St Boswells in the Scottish Borders, and Ruthin in North Wales.

Paul Graham said Kally’s career development within the firm demonstrated its commitment to investing in its team: “Kally’s progression to become head of operations is an excellent example of our ongoing investment in the training and development of our team. Her enthusiasm, expertise and experience are highly valued by both the team and our clients, and this promotion was the next natural step on her career path.”