People: OCU Group; Olliers Solicitors; Hydes; Agent; Roxtec; GC Business Finance

Tania Songini

OCU Group has appointed Tania Songini as a non-executive director. In addition to joining the main board, Tania will also chair the Audit & Risk and ESG committees as part of her non-executive responsibilities.

Tania had an executive career spanning more than two decades, spent mostly in senior finance roles at Siemens AG. She also spent time with the International Rescue Committee, an international humanitarian relief NGO operating in countries destabilised by war, conflict and natural disasters.

Tania is a highly experienced non-executive director and holds non-executive directorships at Thrive Renewables, Guernsey Electricity, Energy Systems Catapult and the UK Infrastructure Bank.

David Taylor-Smith, chairman of Stockport-based OCU, said: “Tania will be a valuable addition to the board and has a wealth of relevant industry, finance and board experience. Her specific industry knowledge, particularly with regards to renewables and the UK’s energy transition, will significantly enhance the skills and expertise of the board as we continue to execute our strategy.”

Tania Songini said: “The business is going through a period of change and rapid growth as it pivots to being not only one of the country’s leading utility services contractors but also a leading contractor for the transformative change in the UK’s energy landscape. I look forward to working with David, OCU’s CEO Michael Hughes and the wider board to deliver the group’s strategy.”


Anne-Marie Nicholls

Olliers Solicitors has grown its team with a string of new fee-earning and support appointments, as well as making key promotions.

The criminal law expert has appointed Anne-Marie Nicholls as a senior associate. Anne-Marie was previously a lawyer at the CPS, leading the team on domestic violence cases for a decade. For the past seven years she has worked as a specialist prosecutor in the Rape and Sexual Offences Unit (RASO), dealing with various cases, including child sexual exploitation and historical sexual abuse.

Anne-Marie has 17 years of experience in pre-charge advice and preparation and extensive knowledge of the process from the prosecution perspective. Of the Olliers team of 25 or so defence solicitors, three are former Crown prosecutors. This brings an extra dimension to the level of service the team at Olliers can provide.

Jack Tomlinson has also joined the firm as a solicitor, having previously worked at a leading motoring defence firm. In his new role at Olliers, Jack will be undertaking his police station accreditation, internal pre-charge accreditation and representing clients at the pre-charge investigative stage.

The team has also been boosted with new talent, as two of Olliers’ summer 2023 interns join the team permanently – Eleanor Harris as a paralegal in the Disclosure and Barring Service department following graduation from the University of Manchester with a First in Law, and Aimee Darbyshire-Ellison as a member of the firm’s support and new business team.

Gavin Westmorland will also bolster the new business team. Olliers will benefit from his unique skill set, having worked for many years within sales but more recently as a police constable with the British Transport Police, offering him an invaluable insight into the criminal justice system.

Alex Close-Claughton and Hannah Poole have both qualified as solicitors. Hannah joined the firm following a summer internship and has completed a two-year training contract. In contrast, Alex joined the firm’s Crown Court department eight years ago as a senior caseworker. He undertook the six-year Solicitor Apprenticeship, completing the SQE1 and SQE2 exams.

Managing director, Matthew Claughton, said: “Our recent hires and promotions demonstrate the firm’s ongoing commitment to nurturing new talent in criminal law.

“At the end of September, Hope Rea and Connor Brylczak will commence their training contracts with us, having joined the firm following previous summer internships.”


Michaela Shaw

North West brewery and pub retailer, Hydes, has appointed an experienced head chef for its premium dining pub due to open this autumn in Heswall, on the Wirral.

It has appointed Michaela Shaw to lead the new kitchen team at The Harry Beswick. The opening of the new pub restaurant will create up to 40 new jobs on opening.

Michaela, 27, has worked in hospitality for more than a decade and was previously at The Hornsmill in Helsby for the past seven years. Michaela worked closely with general manager Roy Wilson for five years at The Hornsmill and the successful partnership will resume once the pair are reunited at The Harry Beswick. Roy was announced as general manager of The Harry Beswick in August.

Michaela joined as chef de partie, becoming sous chef within two years and then spending the next five years as senior sous chef.

She said: “I’m thrilled to be working with Roy again at The Harry Beswick. Becoming head chef is a fantastic opportunity to further develop my career with Hydes. Working so closely with Roy for the past five years has been a great experience and we make the perfect team. We’re planning to build on our existing success to ensure we get off to a flying start from day one at The Harry Beswick.”

Managing director, Adam Mayers, said: “Michaela is a dedicated and talented chef, who has been a key part of the success story at The Hornsmill and a credit to Hydes. The Hornsmill has a fantastic team in place with the same head chef and is in great hands with a new general manager leading the team.”


Michael Cottage

PR company, Agent, has appointed Belinda Hanks as senior copywriter and announced the promotion of Michael Cottage to creative lead.

Both bring a wealth of experience to the North West agency, which was founded more than 17 years ago.

With more than two decades of experience, Belinda, based in the Manchester studio, brings a wealth of expertise gained through collaborations with big name brands including Aldi, Kellogg’s and Argos, partly secured during seven years working at international agency McCann.

Belinda Hanks

Michael, a key lead for the creative team in Liverpool, has 15 years of creative industry experience and has played an invaluable role leading impressive creative campaigns for flagship clients during his five years at Agent, most recently North West Air Ambulance and Net Zero North West.

CEO and founder, Paul Corcoran, said: “We are thrilled to welcome Belinda to the Agent family and we are incredibly proud of our invaluable creative lead Michael, too – his promotion is thoroughly deserved.

“Their impressive track records and combined expertise will be invaluable in enhancing both our client service and offering; supporting us to drive business growth. We are confident that our newly updated team will continue to drive our position as a leading creative marketing agency.”


Nigel Pinhorne

Cable and pipe seal manufacturer Roxtec UK is ramping up its growth plans with the appointment of Nigel Pinhorne to its Infrastructure and Industry Team.

Nigel joins Greater Manchester-based Roxtec as market manager for Ports, Airports, and Heavy Vehicles having previously worked for Sheffield Insulation Group. He said he aims to use knowledge acquired by the wider Roxtec global group to help generate business within the UK’s airports and ports.

“A lot of my previous roles were centered around immediate sales. I wanted to delve into specific specification sales, from design through to installation. That’s what really attracted me to this role.”

Clive Sharp, Roxtec UK managing director, said: “We’re pleased to see Nigel join us as we seek to grow the business in the infrastructure market segment. Airports and ports are a growth market for Roxtec in the UK, and Nigel brings a lot of contacts and expertise.”

He added: “Roxtec is successful in other countries in these sectors, so we know that our seal solutions can deliver real value. Nigel will be drawing on this expertise and that of Roxtec colleagues around the world, which is a massive advantage for growing in the UK offering proven seal technology which can help protect buildings, people and assets from a range of hazards including fire, the risk of explosion, flooding, effects of lightning strikes and rodents.”

Roxtec entered the marketplace in 1990 and is now active in more than 80 markets worldwide. The British subsidiary of the £198m Swedish group has a turnover of more than £6m and a team of 24 based at its Waterfold Business Park head office in Bury.


Yvonne Greeves

GC Business Finance (GCBF), based in Greater Manchester and part of the Growth Company, has appointed Yvonne Greeves as its new chair of the board of directors to drive long term sustainable growth.

With a career spanning more than two decades within financial services, Yvonne is a successful strategic leader with an established external network and industry profile underpinning a track record of delivering tangible benefits to both internal and external stakeholders.

Most recently, Yvonne is head of Women in Business at NatWest Group, where she is responsible for the strategic direction and delivery of the Women in Business (WIB) programme across the UK for the NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank brands.

Yvonne said: “GCBF is operating in a unique space, supporting businesses that have been unable to access more traditional sources of finance. I am passionate about reaching those communities that are often overlooked or feel that entrepreneurship isn’t for them. We offer the valuable income source to businesses when they often need it most to get started.”

Paul Breen, director of business finance at the Growth Company, said: “With extensive experience on boards and driving major projects such as RBS Group’s WIB Programme, Yvonne is key to the future success of GCBF and will offer critical leadership of our board of directors.”