People: Reward Finance Group; Essar Oil (UK); CRJ Services; Suttons International; Stephensons; Agent

Paula Jones

SME funding provider Reward Finance Group has restructured its client relationship operations across the North West, by promoting Paula Jones to head it up.

With Reward providing tailored business finance loans and asset based solutions to SMEs across the UK, Paula will now lead the client relationship team in the North West and also have responsibility for the Midlands.

Paula has vast knowledge of the financial industry, spanning 20 years. She previously worked for RBS Corporate Banking and has been with Reward for more than six years.

Paula said: “I’m relishing the opportunity to work more closely with the regional teams across the business and in the North West to deliver that consistency of service that will help fuel our long term expansion. We envisage making further hires in this space throughout the year ahead.”


Tony Fountain

Essar Oil (UK) the downstream energy company, has appointed Tony Fountain, managing partner at Essar Energy Transition, as an non-executive board director, effective from April 11, 2023.

The appointment comes at a key time for Essar as it delivers on its investment plans of transitioning to amongst the first low carbon refineries globally. Tony’s appointment will support the delivery of Essar Energy Transition (EET) ambition to lead the UK energy transition by investing $3.6bn in developing a range of low carbon energy transition projects over the next five years, of which $2.4bn will be invested at the Essar site in Ellesmere Port, between Liverpool and Manchester.

Tony brings extensive manufacturing, marketing and specialist trading experience and transformation experience. He started his career at BP and his roles have included the CEO of refining and marketing at Reliance Industries. This was uniquely followed by a period as CEO of the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority – with oversight for nuclear decommissioning.

Prashant Ruia, non-executive chairman of Essar, said: “We would like to welcome Tony to Essar’s board. He brings over 40 years of operational, regulatory and executive experience that will enhance our business at this vital stage in our transition.”

Tony Fountain said: “I am pleased to be invited to Essar’s board. The company is committed to be amongst the first low carbon refineries globally and to play a key role in the decarbonisation of the North West.”


Jim Oates

Knutsford-based CRJ Services, the waste, recycling and forestry equipment solutions provider, has appointed Jim Oates as engineering manager, to help improve and streamline business efficiencies and support customer demand.

Jim brings a wealth of engineering knowledge and experience to the role, holding roles as a process engineer, service technician and machine installer over the past 35 years, having initially started his career as a tool room engineer.

Most recently, Jim worked at Hadfield Wood Recyclers, where he was responsible for trebling performances levels.

He said: “With CRJ continuing to grow both in the supply of equipment and the delivery of great customer service, I am determined to contribute to the ongoing success of the business. My immediate focus now is to transform the workshop processes – in much the same way as I did in my previous role – whilst ensuring that we provide the strength of support to our customers that the business’s values enforce.”


Jonathan Mackie

Widnes-based Suttons International has appointed Jonathan Mackie to the role of commercial director, as part of the business’s growth strategy.

Jonathan will be responsible for the development and implementation of a commercial strategy to enable growth with new and existing customers across all regions Suttons International operates in.

Chief executive, John Sutton, said: “With previous experience in logistics management in the UK, Europe, and the Middle East, and a wealth of experience in other sectors, he is perfectly poised to capitalise upon our recent commercial success and large scale fleet investments to bring our high levels of reliability and safety to customers around the world.”


From left: David Baybut, Andrew Welch, Sean Joyce

Andrew Welch, chair and managing partner of the national law firm, Stephensons has announced his retirement following almost 30 years with the Wigan-based firm.

Having joined Stephensons in 1994, immediately after qualifying as a solicitor, Andrew became a partner in 1998 and in 2008 joined the board as deputy chair and subsequently managing partner. He became chair of the firm in 2019, following the retirement of Ann Harrison.

Sean Joyce, currently a partner and head of the firm’s regulatory and criminal justice team, will become the firm’s new managing partner. Meanwhile, David Baybut, partner and head of real estate, will take on the role of Stephensons’ chair.

Andrew Welch said: “We have a wealth of talent coming up through the firm, and I believe the time is right for me to hand over the reins confident that the firm will continue its incredible journey.”

Sean Joyce said: “Andrew has helped to shape Stephensons into one the country’s leading full service law firms and over the course of his career has transformed the lives of countless clients. That is a fantastic legacy with which to begin a new chapter in his life.”


From left: David Milner, Thea Chippendale, Lauryn Sellick

Brand and communications agency, Agent, has expanded its communications team with the hiring of Thea Chippendale as senior PR and communications lead, Lauryn Sellick as social media executive, and the promotion of David Milner to senior performance lead.

These changes come as Agent continues to expand its integrated offering across its North West studios in Liverpool and Manchester.

Thea Chippendale joins from her former position as head of digital PR at MediaVision and senior digital PR at Rise At Seven. Lauryn Sellick comes from Blaze Media, where she worked as a social media executive.

David Milner, the former campaigns consultant at Agent, will oversee the digital marketing and performance accounts which will further enhance Agent’s digital offerings.

CEO and founder, Paul Corcoran, said: “With their extensive social media and PR experience, they will be valuable assets to our team and clients who come to us for a fully integrated service. We’re also thrilled to promote David.”