HR and payroll software provider Ciphr has strengthened its payroll offering by acquiring Shape, a cloud-based payroll platform used by 1,500 UK businesses.

The deal marks a significant ramp-up in payroll-focused activities for the Reading-based, ECI-backed tech group, which already processes over £2 billion in payroll and BACS salary payments a year for its clients.

Since April, Ciphr has added over 20 new payroll customers, including payroll software, outsourced payroll and payroll bureau customers, and expanded its team of payroll experts.

Ciphr has also made several key appointments since last October, including Julie Lally, as MD of payroll; Daniel Turnbull as VP of customer operations; Andrew Stevens as chief technology officer; Jaspal Randhawa, as director of product (payroll, compliance and data platform); Eira Hammond, as payroll bureau and transformation director; and regulatory analyst Claire Warner FCIPP.

Shape’s founders, husband and wife team Alex and Cheri Bartlett, and the rest of its team will join Ciphr.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Alex and Cheri to the Ciphr team. Shape is a cutting-edge, API-first payroll solution that has a great reputation in the payroll sector,” said Sion Lewis, CEO of Ciphr. 

“Shape’s applications are extensive and well-suited to medium and large-sized organisations, like Ciphr’s customers.

“We have great HR solutions, we are HR experts – it’s what we do best – and we have more than 40 years’ experience in the HR and payroll industry. Building out Ciphr’s payroll business is a key focus for us this year, and part of our longer-term growth strategy. And Shape is a perfect fit to take our payroll tech to the next level.

“This acquisition will truly enhance our payroll proposition and help us to continue to support and empower the payroll professionals who use, and rely on, Ciphr’s software and solutions.”

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More than 800 organisations use people management solutions from Ciphr and its subsidiary Marshall E-Learning – a specialist diversity and inclusion learning provider that provides off-the-shelf content and bespoke courses. 

Ciphr Group’s customers include Volkswagen Group UK, Lifetime Training, Crisis UK, Bensons for Beds, Natural History Museum, the Met Office, Financial Conduct Authority, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, Barnardo’s, Police Scotland, Greater London Authority, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, and the Irish Universities Association.

Alex Bartlett added: “Cheri and I founded Shape with a vision to build the most flexible payroll software possible, allowing integration at any level via our Open API and backing that up with an intuitive user interface and fantastic customer support. 

“We’re immensely proud of what we have achieved over the last five years, and it has been a privilege to work with all the fantastic people we have met along the way. The relationships we have built, and the feedback we’ve received from our customers,has been amazing.

“We are both extremely excited about Shape becoming part of the Ciphr Group and taking the next step in this journey. With the help of the amazing team at Ciphr, we will be able to take our application to the next level. And being part of the Ciphr brand will enable us to help customers we couldn’t have reached before.”

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