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Belfast company opening your gateway to the sunshine

By John Mulgrew

Published 08/04/2015

Belfast-based Equiniti will roll out its technology to each of the seven main passport offices
Belfast-based Equiniti will roll out its technology to each of the seven main passport offices

One of Northern Ireland's oldest IT companies will be helping passengers from across the UK get away on their holidays after landing a deal to provide crucial software to passport offices throughout the country.

Belfast-based Equiniti - which has been running since 1966 - will roll out its cloud time management technology to all 37 sites and 2,500 staff - including each of the seven main passport offices.

And the latest contract could mean an increase in staff numbers down the line.

It's understood the deal is worth around £400,000.

The web-based cloud platform - which was jointly developed here and will be managed from Belfast - reduces the work involved in recording, planning, managing absence and auditing, as well as dealing with staff timetables.

Paul Lemon, (below) sales director for IT services at Equiniti, said the software was the latest move by HM Passport Office to deal with increasing workload pressures.

"With the pressure they are under, they are ramping up again," he said.

"What we do is provide a host data centre in Belfast. Glasgow is live now, and then it's going to be pushed out to 37 sites and seven main offices, including Belfast."

Additional staff had to be drafted into the Belfast Passport Office to tackle an unprecedented demand for new passports and renewals last summer.

Backlogs of applications across the UK reportedly reached around 500,000.

Equiniti currently employs around 270 people at its Belfast base.

"This is great for us as it shows we can go and compete with very large organisations in the UK, and win business - which is effectively with the Home Office," Mr Lemon said.

"And we are delivering it out of Belfast, which shows the strength of a cloud-based model."

Equiniti also boasts other big name UK-wide government contracts including the Office for National Statistics and the Ministry of Justice.

Formerly ICS Computing, the company was bought over by W&R Barnett Group in 1999, before being sold to the Equiniti group in 2009.

The parent company employs around 3,500 staff across 22 locations in the UK - turning over around £300m a year.

And while Mr Lemon said the latest deal would not lead to an immediate expansion of its workforce, he said further contracts "could lead to a bigger headcount".

"This service won't increase the number of staff locally, but gives us the possibility for more opportunities. Any more work could lead to a bigger headcount. If we have any more of these services we would need additional staff."

HM Passport Office purchased Equiniti's software through the Government's G-Cloud online marketplace.

Nigel Farr, a director at Equiniti, said having a "time and attendance system that is cloud-based is increasingly becoming essential".

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