Matthew Neville

This week’s North East appointments

This week’s round up of North East appointments includes Ignite, GB Bank and Sweeney Miller Law. Read on to find out more.

(L - R): Libby Waddell and Lisa van Heereveld, Ignite

National tech accelerator, Ignite, has strengthened its North East team with two new appointments. Joining its team are Libby Waddell as operations manager and Lisa van Heereveld as community and communications manager, who will both be dedicated to helping more tech founders in the North East of England build successful businesses.

Libby will be responsible for handling all operations which includes connecting tech founders with specialised mentors who previously started tech businesses. Prior to her role at Ignite, she worked at Sunderland Software City as Business Administrator for 3 years.

Lisa will be responsible for supporting the Ignite alumni network of over 500+ founders, whilst championing the stories of those currently on the cohort. She also previously worked at Sunderland Software City, where she raised the profile of a range of digital programmes through her role as Marketing and PR Manager.

Both of the appointments were made to help deliver on Ignite’s 3-year commitment to support the North East digital ecosystem. In partnership with the North of Tyne Combined Authority, this will involve the delivery of tailored accelerator programmes. The first pre-accelerator launched last January and will complete mid June.

Jo York, Programme Manager at Ignite, says: “I’m very excited to be working alongside Libby and Lisa. Their experience in the local ecosystem is invaluable and the startup founders of the North East are very lucky to have them on their side.”

Stephen Lancaster, GB Bank

Stephen Lancaster has been appointed CEO of Middlesbrough based GB Bank, the purpose-driven specialist bank committed to boosting economic growth and prosperity by providing property development finance in underserved regions of the UK.

A co-founder of the bank, Stephen is the former CEO of Cascade and led the build and launch of its cloud native platform. He has over 30 years’ multi-industry and cross sector experience with particular expertise in FinTech. His core strengths lie in building start ups, business strategy, technology and programme delivery.

His track record in leading and managing business change, as well as in driving business and team performance has been clearly visible with the significant progress GB Bank has made through mobilisation as the bank moves closer to launch.

In the new role, Stephen takes responsibility for the strategic leadership and direction of GB Bank and is focused on the bank’s mobilisation and fundraising, alongside people, financial and risk management.

Stephen commented: “Having helped develop the concept for GB Bank and worked with the fantastic team here throughout, it’s a privilege to formally take up the position of CEO to make our vision a reality.

“We are steadfastly committed to delivering on our purpose which is to take property development finance to where it’s needed most and it’s great to see this goal gathering traction as we move ever closer to being fully operational.”

Irenna Pietruszka, Sweeney Miller Law

Head of Sweeney Miller’s residential conveyancing team in Newcastle, Irenna Pietruszka, has been promoted to partner. Based at Sweeney Miller’s Gosforth offices in Bulman House, Irenna supervises the Newcastle residential property team. As well as her management responsibilities, Irenna also has her own client caseload.

She has extensive experience in complex sales, purchases, remortgage, transfers of equity, right to buys, new builds, shared ownership properties and transfers.

Irenna gained her Law degree and legal qualifications at Northumbria University, following which she worked at several North East law firms before joining Sweeney Miller in 2018 where she has contributed to the rapid growth of the firm’s conveyancing department.

Irenna joins Sweeney Miller’s senior leadership team with fellow Partners Surbhi Vedhara, Jess Fenwick, Damien Todd and Michael Storey. Managing partner Surbhi commented: “We are all delighted at the news of Irenna becoming a partner. She has helped steer the team through the challenges of the pandemic and Stamp Duty holiday.

“Irenna has contributed to making Sweeney Miller’s conveyancing department one of the strongest in the region, an achievement recognised by reaching the finals of the residential property category of this year’s Northern Law Awards.

“Irenna’s promotion reinforces our focus on building solid foundations for the future and that there are no ‘glass ceilings’ at the firm where performance and dedication are rewarded. The other Partners and I look forward to Irenna’s contribution to the senior team.”


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