Mike Strong


First Ark’s growing social investments have resulted in the recruitment of two experienced financial services executives. Paula Brown and Mike Strong join First Ark to build on the over £1 million the company has delivered for 11 different organisations across the North West. A further £600,000 in funding is waiting to be approved after applications from four social enterprises across the region.

First Ark is an approved partner of the Invest for Impact Fund, a £4 million pot which provides a mixture of loans and grants between £50,000 and £150,000. First Ark support charities and social enterprises through the application process to maximise their chances of a successful bid. In addition, First Ark is also an approved Access Point for the Reach Fund, an investment readiness grant programme which provides small grants between £5,000 and £15,000.

Paula will take on the role of investment manager at First Ark after a 30-year career at the Co-operative Bank including time as commercial banking relationship manager and a business development role. A Fellow of the Institute of Financial Services, Paula will be responsible for promoting awareness of and providing access to the social investment funds offered by First Ark.

Speaking about her new role, Paula said:

“I came across First Ark in one of my previous roles at the Co-operative Bank and I’ve retained an interest in the company since then. It’s a unique business model and I’m really looking forward to seeing the positive impact our social investment funds will deliver.”

Paula will be supported by Mike Strong who has been recruited as business support manager. Mike joins First Ark from HSBC where he worked as a business specialist, supporting new and existing businesses to access the financial products and services they required. Mike’s new role will see him assist social enterprises in the preparation of business plans and financial projections as well as provide ongoing support to successful applicants in the delivery of social outcomes.

Speaking about his new role, Mike said:

“There are some really exciting projects out there and I’m looking forward to guiding them along the way and helping them to deliver lasting social impact in our community. I would encourage anyone who has an idea about how they can deliver positive change to contact us and see how we can help them achieve that.”

Hannah Jones, group head of investment at First Ark said:

“Paula and Mike bring a wealth of financial services experience with them and will be invaluable to us and our partners as we continue to deliver positive change and investment. We have an excellent record of investing to the benefit of our communities but we are incredibly ambitious and want to do even more and having Paula and Mike as part of our team will enable us to achieve this.”

Social enterprises who are looking for funding can contact First Ark on 0151 290 7000 and ask to speak to either Paula or Mike about their requirements.

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