People: Northern, Armstrong Watson, Ahead Partnership and more

Tricia Williams has taken the helm as managing director at Northern and now leads the UK’s second largest train operator.

Williams has been with Northern since 2020 when she joined the organisation as chief operating officer. She is succeeded in that role by Matt Rice, who joined Northern from network Rail, where is has route director the the north and east.

Prior to working at Northern, she held a number of executive roles at Manchester Airports Group where she delivered sustained customer growth and transformation.

She also spent 20 years at United Utilities Group in a range of operational leadership and strategic transformation roles.

In his role, Rice will lead all Northern service and engineering functions across the North of England, which includes 2,500 services a day to more than 500 stations in the region.

Williams said, “After three great years as chief operating officer, it’s an absolute honour to be taking on the managing director role from this week. I know we have big challenges ahead of us but Northern is in a strong position and Matt and the rest of the director leadership team are committed to creating an inclusive culture, improving performance and our customer experience.”

Rice  said: ““I have spent my career focused on making things better and I am committed to fostering a positive workplace culture for all and delivering great rail services for people across the North of England.”

Rice is supported in his role by three regional directors. Craig Harrop heads-up Northern’s operations in the North West, while Kerry Peters is responsible for Yorkshire, East Midlands and Humberside. Jason Wade was recently appointed to the North East role. Northern makes an annual contribution to the national economy of £1.25bn.


Armstrong Watson appointed and promoted two directors and a company secretarial senior.

The accountancy and advisory firm has welcomed new accounting director David Jones and company secretarial senior Tim Crawley. Meanwhile, Sally Jones, who has been with Armstrong Watson for 20 years, starting out as an accounting trainee, has been promoted to the role of accounting director.

The three, based at the firm’s Leeds office, will help to continue to develop the accountancy proposition in Leeds and the wider Yorkshire area.

Sally Jones said, “It is a huge personal achievement for my hard work and loyalty to be recognised. I hope I am a role model for our current trainees and the future generation of the firm.

“The accounting proposition in Leeds has gone from strength to strength over recent years. We have an excellent team, great clients and a really strong pipeline ahead. This will provide opportunities within the team and externally as we continue to grow.”

David Jones joins Armstrong Watson after four years in industry where he held two senior finance positions and prior to that worked in practice for 10 years. He will work with existing clients and look for new opportunities across the region, focusing on the strategic business advisory service.

He said: “From my initial conversations, I knew that Armstrong Watson was the right choice for my return to practice. The firm has a fantastic culture and promotes innovation and I look forward to helping the accounting team grow and evolve the offering we provide to our already fantastic client base.”

Tim Crawley has worked at York Place for more than 20 years as a senior formations agent. In his former role he was actively involved in company secretarial matters. As company secretarial senior for Armstrong Watson, he is responsible for more post-incorporation services, primarily overseeing a project to ensure PSC registers for limited companies are updated.


Leeds-headquartered ESG specialist Ahead Partnership has appointed Andy Clarke as its new head of partnerships as it expands its operations with a national focus.

Clarke, an engagement specialist, most recently worked for Manchester Airports Group as Head of Corporate Affairs at Manchester Airport. He brings a decade of experience working for a range of public and private sector organisations including Asda and Transport for the North. He also assists campaigning organisation FreedomToDonate as their head of parliamentary and corporate engagement.

In the newly created role, Clarke will assume responsibility for leading business development in new regions and enhancing the impact of Ahead Partnership. His mandate includes the expansion of existing programmes and the establishment of new initiatives, with a particular focus on spearheading Ahead Partnership’s growth into Manchester and the broader North West region.
The appointment comes following the business’s expansion from its Leeds headquarters to now operating programmes across the UK, from Glasgow to Portsmouth.

Chief executive Stephanie Burras CBE said: “As we celebrate our 20th anniversary this year, we are looking to strengthen and expand our position to ensure as many employers as possible can benefit from our programmes. We are passionate about the role that employers can play to create strong talent pipelines and enable all young people to understand the opportunities now available to them. Andy’s experience will be a great asset for us as we move forward.”

Clarke said, “ESG and social mobility are incredibly important to me and were key factors in my decision to join Ahead Partnership. I am excited about the opportunity to contribute to the organisation’s continued growth and success, and I look forward to building public-private partnerships that enable young people reach their full potential.”


Thrive Law has appoited barrister Chelsea Brooke-Ward  as a trainer. She will deliver training sessions and courses for Thrive alongside her existing legal practice as head of the employment team at Park Square Barristers.

A published author and experienced practitioner specialising in employment law, Brooke-Ward can deliver in-house seminars and training for employers, HR practices and law firms. She will significantly strengthen Thrive’s legal training offering after the recent influx of employment law changes, such as those to flexible working. There are also many more on the horizon.

Her expertise, skills and experience complement those of the existing Thrive training team, which features founder and managing partner Jodie Hill, senior associate solicitor Alicia Collinson, and L&D lead Jo Rowland.

Hill said, “I’m delighted to be working with Chelsea. I’ve known her for many years and her values are well aligned with my own and those of Thrive.

“Chelsea has unique skills and insights that will enrich our offering significantly, enhancing our ability to support and elevate businesses through expert-led training sessions.”

She added, “When I launched Thrive, I didn’t want to only provide reactive legal services for when things go wrong. Instead, I wanted to educate and empower employers to have the right skills to deal with their people challenges effectively.”

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