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Nucleus rises above the conflict

Wrap platform Nucleus has signed its 50th member firm with the addition of Westminster Financial Planning.

The adviser-owned platform says it plans to break even by the end of 2008.

Now into its second year of trading, total assets under management on Nucleus stand at over £300m.

Business development director Philip Martin says the present rate of growth is sustainable and scalable for the future and he expects shareholder firms to number three figures by the end of the year.

Martin says: “We added 20 IFA firms through the whole of last year and we have already put on a further 20 in the first three months of this year, so it is a pretty rapid growth in terms of the pick-up.

“Our key objective this year is to drive toward break even, which would mean we have done it within two years. That would be a spectacular achievement and that is the business plan we have laid out to shareholders this year.”

Martin says Nucleus welcomes the FSA’s consultative approach to the regulation of the wrap industry but insists that current controversy surrounding conflict of interest and objectivity for adviser-owned platforms is propagated by life offices.

He says he finds interpreting definitions of independence “mildly amusing” as he believes that independence should not relate just to propriety. He notes that there is not a single life company wrap which offers a whole-of-market choice to investors.

He says: “Ownership is a complete red herring. It is an extremely convenient hook for the life industry which continues to offer products which take excessively high margins. Advisers are faced with potential conflicts every day of the week. Good IFAs have always negotiated these risks appropriately.

“Nucleus has already been very clear about the sort of IFA firms it wants to work with and we have always been clear it is not available to the whole marketplace. We want to be with IFAs who put their client welfare and advice at the heart of the proposition.”

Westminster managing director Mike Beckwith says being able to take a stake in the platform was a key motivating factor to signing up.

Beckwith says: “We have worked hard to build a reputation for being truly independent and it was imperative that our chosen platform complemented this.

“A key factor in selecting Nucleus was knowing that as part of the ownership structure, we would have a say in the future development and direction of the platform, something no other proposition is able to offer.”

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