The Nucleus census is the annual temperature check of our platform users, tracking how they and their businesses are progressing from year to year. We’ve just published the latest census and there are some interesting themes emerging.
2017 was a great year for many of the firms using Nucleus. We saw revenue, average client numbers and the values that clients have available to invest all increase. A lot of this will be driven by ongoing requests for defined benefit (DB) to defined contribution (DC) pension transfers, with around 90 per cent of firms seeing an increase.
Strong numbers are a cause for celebration, but behind these, there are signs that some firms are seeing pressure in certain areas.
Firms using Nucleus tend to be smaller, with a median number of eight employees. Average client numbers per adviser rose 21 per cent over 2017, and on top of that firms had to find time to comply with MiFID II regulations and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
All of this takes time and effort to consider and implement, and capacity issues are emerging. Around a quarter of firms feel business growth and efficiency is one of their biggest challenges over the next 12 months, so it’s encouraging to see around a quarter of users looking at alternatives to traditional face-to-face advice, either via client portals or screen-to-screen ability.
Despite being enablers for advisers, the platform industry doesn’t always seem to help matters. Nearly half of users expect some form of disruption due to ongoing replatforming projects. And while advisers would like to see costs fall further, it feels that only increased focus from the regulator is going to bring about a squeeze in asset management fees.
Looking to the future, two-thirds of the firms using Nucleus tell us they are in this for the long haul. Nearly half believe the need for financial planning services is their biggest opportunity this year, and nearly all are confident about their future business prospects.
There’s no doubt that the rest of 2018 is likely to comprise a lot of hard work, disruption, and uncertainty, but with that will also come opportunity and growth. If it’s anything like 2017, we’ll see firms that use Nucleus continue to go from strength to strength.