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Profit hike adds up for financial platform Nucleus

Nucleus, the Edinburgh- based financial "wrap" platform competing successfully with the big insurers, has reported first-half profits up 85 per cent on last year, and a major investment in technology which it says is a springboard for further rapid growth.

GROWTH: David Ferguson, founder of Nucleus, said platforms were playing an increasingly important role as he reported a £1m profit. Picture: Steve Cox

David Ferguson, founder of the firm which is 51 per cent owned by financial advisers, said headcount had increased by 10 per cent this year from 105 to 116, as he reported a record £1 million profit.

Turnover was up 26 per cent at £11.1m, inflows were 15 per cent higher at £1 billion, and assets rose by a third to £7bn.

Mr Ferguson said the new pensions freedoms from next year would require ever sharper responses from advisers.

"Platforms are playing an increasingly important role in advisers' day-to-day business and this is only going to become more true as the recent regulatory changes in the retirement space start to bite. That makes platform due diligence (for advisers) more important than ever, and while others seek to obfuscate and massage the truth, it is a great privilege to lead a business which is the second-fastest growing in the sector and which is able to engage honestly, transparently and with clarity in that vital process."

Asked what he meant by ­obfuscation, Mr Ferguson said bigger rivals had poured large sums into building their platforms and did not reveal whether they were profitable. "There is an odd lack of continuity in some of the financial reporting, it looks like they are burying some of the numbers in group charges.

"This business is naturally low margin...I don't think all of the big organisations are constructing themselves adequately to deal with that reality."

A Standard Life spokesman said: "Our wrap platform holds over half of the assets of our 'retail new' business, which delivered a full year profit contribution of £80m in 2013, followed by a profit contribution of £46m in the first half of this year.....profit contribution from the retail new business is up more than 84 per cent since 2012. This clearly demonstrates the value of the wrap service to our business."

Aviva was unable to comment

In another sideswipe at his giant competitors, Mr Ferguson said he welcomed the exclusion of insurers from the government's plans to provide free guidance for retirees from next April.

Nucleus has become the first industry user of Sonata, the next generation of platform technology from leading global software supplier Bravura, which is set to be adopted by the likes of Aviva and Fidelity.

Mr Ferguson said: "Now we have the most modern technology and a very stable financial position, which means we can make decisions for the long-term to help the business."

He added: "Our numbers are evidence that a collaboration between like-minded advisers can have a real and sustainable impact and I remain hugely excited by the future possibilities."

Nucleus is looking for ways to increase the stake held by advisers, after being forced to change its ownership structure to meet new regulatory rules.

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