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Team
James Dingwall
Founder & CEO
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James Dingwall

Since setting the business up in 2012, James has grown the Thistle Initiatives Group to encompass five different companies employing more than a hundred people. Before that, he spent ten years in roles at two of the Big Four accountancy firms. With expertise spanning all sectors of financial services, James has extensive experience managing and implementing change programmes within large financial institutions. A chartered member of the CISI, he currently focuses on client work involving regulatory supervision and enforcement, the approved persons regime, and complex tech-related FCA applications.

Michael Bellenger
Finance & Operations Director
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Michael Bellenger

Michael joined Thistle in 2013, having been a partner at a multi-discipline accountancy firm where he specialised in accounting and audit work for financial services firms. His responsibilities at Thistle encompass roles as Head of Finance, Operations and Acquisitions, and as Company Secretary. As a compliance consultant, Michael advises clients on issues around prudential regulation. In particular, this involves compliance work for BIPRU/IFPRU firms, ICAAPs consolidation, and waivers. Michael is a Fellow of the ACCA.

Nikki Bennett
General Insurance Director
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Nikki Bennett

With three decades’ experience in the general insurance industry, Nikki spent 7 years as a commercial insurance underwriter and 11 years in broking and schemes management before specialising in compliance. She joined Thistle in June 2009, where she is currently managing director of our General Insurance, Claims and Consumer Credit division.

Alex Paschalis
Investments Director
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Alex Paschalis

Alex joined Thistle in February 2015 after two decades working with complex financial products. His experience includes ten years as a proprietary trader covering FI and energy products, from open outcry to screen-based trading. Immediately prior to joining Thistle, Alex was a front-office compliance business analyst within a multi-asset trading team covering equities, FI, FX, commodities and CFDs. His areas of specialisation include discretionary and advisory investment management, investment compliance, FCA authorisation, variations, enforcement actions, systems and controls and financial crime auditing. Alex holds a CISI diploma in investment compliance and a CFA certificate in investment management.

Norma Foley
HR & Operations Manager
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Norma Foley

In her role at Thistle, Norma focuses on leading our operations, HR functions and IT solutions development. Prior to joining Thistle in 2013, Norma worked for one of the UK’s leading general insurers, where she gained extensive experience of call centre operations and customer support, and specialised in creating solutions for new firms to the industry.

Heather O'Gorman
Head of Payment Services & Financial Crime Prevention
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Heather O'Gorman

Heather leads our payment services and financial crime team, advising on everything from payments services regulation, SCA and open banking, to AISP and PISP applications, audits and FCA thematic reviews.

Heather joined Thistle in 2016 and has acquired a deep understanding of compliance issues, both in a practical and academic sense. Her experience of over 10 years covers FCA compliance requirements as well as extensive knowledge within financial crime, including anti-bribery, fraud and anti-money laundering, in which she recently completed an ICA diploma. Prior to joining Thistle, Heather held a compliance role in the insurance sector for a Lloyd’s syndicate.

Matthew Williamson
Head of Fintech
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Matthew Williamson

Matt joined Thistle in 2015 and is currently responsible for managing our fintech team. As well as working with established fintech businesses on meeting their regulatory obligations, Matt also specialises in supporting firms both coming to market and bringing new products to market. This includes consulting on systems and processes, in addition to providing expert assistance for firms becoming directly FCA regulated and appointed representatives. Matt has completed a number of qualifications with the CISI as well as having a BSc with the University of Plymouth.

Sophie Long
Sales Director
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Sophie Long

Sophie joined Thistle in April 2016. Her role as Sales Director involves managing client relationships across investments, fintech and payment services. Before joining Thistle, Sophie spent eight years in recruitment, specialising in the investment banking sector.