People: Leep Utilities; Graham + Sibbald; MHA Moore and Smalley; Cortus Advisory Group; Sneak; Hugh Jones Solicitors

Lee Kitchen and Helen Bishop

Manchester-based last mile multi-utility network owner and operator, Leep Utilities has strengthened its team with the appointment of two directors.

Lee Kitchen joined the company as chief financial officer, and Helen Bishop as director of customer operations.

In his new role, Lee is responsible for managing Leep’s day to day finance function and to provide strategic and financial guidance to the company’s CEO and board. He also oversees its finance and IT departments.

He joined Leep from ENGIE, a French utilities multinational business where he held various senior roles over an eight-year tenure, most prominently as finance director for their district heating and cooling business.

Lee said: “I joined Leep Utilities because of the vision that the board shares for the business and, given my industry experience, I believe I can add real value in helping them achieve their ambition through a period of rapid growth. I really feel like I’ve joined at a great time. Leep have successfully navigated an unprecedented and unpredictable couple of years and have a host of exciting initiatives and projects they are working on – there’s lots to keep me busy and I’m thrilled to be here.”

After her eight-year tenure at Thames Water, Helen Bishop brings with her enviable experience and a proven track record in customer and direct communication and engagement strategy.

In her previous role, Helen designed and directed a customer behavioural change programme for Thames Water. She also oversaw the investment to transform Thames Water’s customer bill for 3.6 million customers, which measured a tangible benefit through reducing customer contact and complaints.

Helen said: “I am a strategic leader who thrives in a pressurised and challenging environment and bring to Leep over 15 years’ experience of designing and delivering customer transformation in the travel and water sectors. I’m passionate about making a difference for both customers and people and am very much looking forward to doing the same here.”

Leep Utilities CEO, Louise Manfredi, said: “Helen and Lee are both proven leaders within the utilities sector and their experience will be invaluable as we enter what is a significant and ambitious growth phase for us.

“They’re very important additions to our senior leadership and its testament to the great work that we’re doing – and our plans for the future – that we’re able to attract such high-calibre colleagues.”

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Property agency and multi-disciplinary consultancy, Graham + Sibbald, has appointed a new director and associate across its Manchester and Glasgow offices.

Carole Latham has joined the firm as a director from Latham Davies, an RIBA Chartered Architects practice that she co-founded and ran for 15 years in Sheffield. Her design approach is rooted in building site-specific, low carbon architectural solutions demonstrating how value and delight can be achieved for commercial projects.

After graduating as an architect, Carole’s chartered career started in Glasgow, working for seven years in social housing, community projects, urban regeneration, student developments, tenement refurbishments, prominent listed building conversions and extra care sheltered housing.

Carole spearheaded her time at Sheffield as the lead architect for Velocity 1, a significant mixed-use high-rise development in Sheffield city centre. Skilled in development herself, she was also responsible for the creation of a unique duplex apartment overlooking Sheffield Cathedral.

Carole Latham

Carole worked as a design studio tutor with the prestigious University of Sheffield Architecture Department, consolidating mentoring skills with design-based research into the current challenges facing the built environment.

Bringing this experience to the Manchester office is part of the Graham + Sibbald continued expansion to deliver architecture services throughout the UK.

She said: “The incredible opportunity to be part of the G+S Architecture growth was clear. There is a wealth of expertise that we can complement with new skills. We will continue the collaboration across the different specialisms that delivers co-ordinated and well researched solutions.”

“It’s a unique offer for the property sector and our clients – a property consultancy with its own in-house architecture department. Every feasibility study, offer and proposal becomes more informed, creative, marketable and deliverable with this level of experience.”

Joining Graham + Sibbald as an associate, Rachel Murray has studied both interior design and building conservation and brings a huge wealth of experience as client and consultant to the team alongside her passion for architecture and design.

Tom Hamilton, director of architectural services at Graham + Sibbald, welcomed Carole and Rachel, saying: “The passion, enthusiasm, and commitment to high quality architectural design which they both deliver will continue to strengthen and grow the services we offer our clients. Having worked with both previously they are client-focused with outstanding design skills and this will support the continued development and growth of our team.”

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Accountancy and advisory form MHA Moore and Smalley has made two senior promotions in the North West – further strengthening its corporate tax and corporate finance teams.

Kelly Quail has been promoted to corporate tax director, while Ian Waddingham has been named corporate finance director.

The promotions will create opportunities for the firm to grow both teams in the future, supporting more businesses and their owners across the region.

Graham Gordon, managing partner of MHA Moore and Smalley, said: “It’s important to us to offer great career progression opportunities and an environment where the hard work and dedication of our colleagues is rewarded.

“Kelly and Ian are two individuals that embody our values and provide outstanding support to our clients – they set a great example on how people can make a real difference here. Therefore, it’s a pleasure to announce their promotions which will also give both teams the extra capacity needed to grow.”

Kelly, who started her career at PwC before joining MHA Moore and Smalley more than 20 years ago, has played a key role in helping to develop the firm’s corporate tax team.

From left: Kelly Quail, Graham Gordon, Ian Waddingham

She specialises in advising a wide range of SMEs, as well as UK subsidiaries of international businesses, owner-managed firms, and charities on corporate tax matters.

Kelly said: “From a team of just two when I first started here, we now have 14-strong team providing high level corporate tax advice to our accountancy and audit clients. This is a firm with great people and clients, and I’m thrilled to have been promoted.”

Ian, who started his career at KPMG, is a chartered accountant with more than 16 years of corporate finance experience.

He is part of a team that has become one of the largest and most active corporate finance advisors in the North West M&A market. He has recently advised on major transactions in the software, business services and logistics sectors.

Ian said: “My family has a long association with this firm with my uncle working here in the 1970s and my parents were both clients of the firm. It’s an honour to be promoted to director within a fantastic and growing team which is supporting the region’s business owners on some important transactions in the SME market.”

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Cortus Advisory Group, the Northern-based business boutique, has seen rapid growth since its launch in May 2021. The team now totals 23 which includes three partners, one director, four associate directors and four managers. Most recently, the group announced two promotions.

Alex Stewart

Alex Stewart (nee-Ford) who joined Cortus Advisory Group in August 2021, and works across the North, has been promoted to director within the corporate advisory team. The promotion recognises her significant contribution to the group’s progress as she also takes on responsibility for driving its corporate finance offering.

Lucas Thornley, based in Preston, has been promoted to manager within the transaction services team which has advised on 16 transactions in the first half of the year and recently was ranked second in a North West league table of financial advisers.

Additionally, Charlotte Harrington joins the corporate advisory team and will be based in the Preston office. Charlotte previously worked at Cowgills in a variety of roles including lead advisory, business valuations and financial modelling. Latterly, she was head of finance for the group giving her invaluable experience and insight into the running of an internal finance function.

She joins Cortus in a client-facing advisory role once again supporting across its sell and buy side engagements, business planning, financial forecasting work and assisting corporates to navigate short term liquidity challenges.

Ben Whitworth

This comes on the back of Ben Whitworth joining the team at the start of September, as an associate director heading up the group’s financial modelling offering. Ben is based in Leeds.

James Groot, who leads the corporate advisory offering, said: “Both Alex’s promotion and Charlotte and Ben’s arrivals are reflective of the demand for our advisory services. Companies and entrepreneurs need support to navigate and respond to the ever-changing corporate landscape.

“Our team is experienced ‘extra muscle’ that is ready to plug in to a board, finance team or other operating structure to facilitate decision making and change to happen rapidly and accurately.”

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Ashley Read has joined Manchester-based Sneak Energy as CEO following 10 years with SiS (Science in Sport), where he most recently held the CMO and COO positions. He completes a new line-up of leadership at the D2C energy drink business following the placement of Robert Leechman as chair, as well as CFO Bogdan Ionescu, earlier this year.

Sneak Energy, the zero-sugar energy drink, was founded by Will Peirce and Jonny Teeling in 2018, who remain ambassadors for the business.

As CMO and COO at SiS, Ashley designed and executed an operating plan which delivered strong growth, notably launching the brand into the USA and driving online share of business by moe than 50%. Building experience at Britvic with energy brand Gatorade before moving onto SiS, Ashley is well placed to lead Sneak with Robert’s support.

Robert holds a variety of non-executive positions across the food and beverage and manufacturing categories including Wild Nutrition and Hereford Contract Canning Company. Robert’s experience and extensive network from his time holding senior roles at The Coca-Cola Company, latterly as chief customer and commercial officer, will be of huge support to Sneak as it looks to grow its loyal customer-base.

Ashley Read

Ashley Read said: “Sneak Energy is a creative and dynamic brand, with a highly loyal and engaged community of consumers, something I think is incredibly valuable – especially against the backdrop of a tough consumer climate, and something I’m really looking forward to getting involved with in the coming years.

“Alongside our chair, Robert, and our investors, True, I’m looking forward to bringing all that I’ve learnt from the sports nutrition industry to a brand that’s truly reimagining its category.”

Non-executive chair, Robert Leechman, said: “I’m thrilled to have Ashley at the helm of this next chapter in Sneak’s journey. It is a challenging market but one that Sneak has all the ingredients to weather, with the popularity of its recent Breakfast Orange flavour launch demonstrating how supportive its loyal community is, as well as its skill in flexing its creativity.”

Ella d’Amato, MD investment True and Sneak board member, said: “Since we acquired Sneak in 2021 we’ve continued to be impressed by the creativity and commitment of the team to create campaigns and launches that not only surpass the expectations of its highly engaged customers but also win new ones in the process.”

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Boutique law firm, Hugh Jones Solicitors, has appointed a new director as it continues to eye rapid growth.

The Manchester-based Court of Protection expert has welcomed Jill Rushton to the team, which has experienced a significant uplift in work referred to the firm and has been recruiting heavily to cope with increased demand.

Jill joins as director and head of Court of Protection from Stephensons Solicitors, bringing with her 18 years’ legal experience in all aspects of property and finances Court of Protection work. She has acted as an expert witness on Court of Protection matters in primarily high value personal injury and clinical negligence cases, working on some matters for over a decade.

Hugh Jones and Jill Rushton

As a director of the Hugh Jones Trust Corporation, Jill acts as deputy for clients who have lost capacity and her work includes the management of significant settlements which are used to fund care and therapy packages, specialist equipment and property purchases or adaptation projects.

She said: “I take great pride in working closely with clients and their families to manage substantial damage awards to maximise their rehabilitation and quality of life. Everything I do is in the best interests of the individual and their loved ones and this is a value that totally aligns with Hugh Jones Solicitors. I look forward to working with such a strong team of like-minded individuals.”

Managing director, Liz Hughes, said: “As we continue to grow, we are always looking to bolster our workforce with the sector’s most knowledgeable experts.

“Jill will play a vital role in ensuring that the Court of Protection services we offer continue to lead the industry. It’s brilliant to add to our team of directors, too – she is a valuable addition and perfectly placed to provide vulnerable clients and their families with the support they require.”

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