Some people just don’t want to go messing about with irony. After the excitement of James Hay’s announcement that it plans to assimilate Nucleus, I popped onto the Twitter and hilariously asked if anyone had any thoughts on what I might cover this week.

Well, I got lots of nice suggestions and now I feel bad that folk took the time to think about it. Not everyone; there was a fair bit of England/Scotland rugby stuff and someone suggested Swedish death metal, but that wouldn’t mark it out from any other week.  But if it’s OK I’ll probably just write about the JHP / Nucleus deal some more.

The basics got well covered yesterday – James Fitzgerald at NMA did a great job on it and Justin and Katy at Money Marketing managed a dissertation length analysis piece that was excellent too. We chipped in a bit here so I won’t retread all that.

So beyond the stuff we know already, what’s worthy of a bit of your Wednesday?

Maybe the most important thing is the fondness we’ve heard from firms who’ve got in touch throughout the day. Firms don’t think Nucleus is perfect by any means – it does well but not stratospherically well in our service ratings – but users do feel an affinity to it even if they weren’t shareholders. That is a quite remarkable thing for such a bunch of hard-bitten cynics. I’ve been struck by the number of correspondents wishing Fergie well but worrying that what he built will now become ‘just another’ contender.

That’s sort of lovely and human, if a bit skew-whiff – the key thing here is that whatever comes out the other side of this has to be demonstrably suitable for clients; and if it is, along with being well-priced, well-serviced and reasonably pleasant to deal with, then that is good enough. Nucleus hasn’t been a scrappy upstart for a long time; it’s a proper listed business looking after £17bn of people’s hard-earned. There are plenty of scrappy upstarts out there if that’s your thing.

There’s also a fondness in a sort of frustrated-with-my-ex sort of way with JHP too. We haven’t heard much from users, but what reaction we have had is that JHP has been frustrating for a long time, but that firms want it to be there in one guise or another, and it would be smashing if it could sort itself out. Wine and roses that ain’t, but it could be a lot worse.

The second thing that strikes me is the scale of the ambition here. If we assume that all the plans go as, er, planned, we’re looking at an acquisition followed by a double replatforming, followed by a triple salchow followed by lunch.  No-one has tried this before and it’s going to test everyone along the way. The bear traps are obvious, but if the JHP-Nucleus-FNZ axis can get it away then we’re going to see some faces carved into Salisbury Crags at some point.

Finally, and this is a point to which I think many will return – at some point we’ll need to think about the impact private equity is having on this sector. There’s a version of this story where PE firms buy a bunch of providers, smash them together, take some cost out and exit a few years later with a huge multiple and a copy of How To Spend It tucked under their arms. And they do this while creating good client outcomes and very happy adviser firms.

That’s what we all want (maybe not the How To Spend It bit). The real question though is what happens when things don’t go to plan.

It will be what it will be. As we said yesterday, nothing needs doing straight away; in fact if you’re a Nucleus or a JHP user you shouldn’t take any action at all just now beyond ensuring you’re fully up to date on what’s happening in the space. Change like this can make you feel like you’re not in control – but remember that you absolutely are and that your clients trust you to make measured, reasoned judgements on what’s best. And that’s the most important thing of all.

QUITE HOPING A PE FIRM WILL MAKE ME AN OFFER FOR THE LINKS BIT

  • Platform Analyser is one year old. I’m telling you this because a) we’re happy about it and b) if platform analysis is something you’re thinking about then we’re doing a demo for anyone interested next week. It’ll be on Thursday at 11am, here. Or you can sign up here and there’s even a cheeky wee birthday discount if you ask nicely.
  • HomeGames this week is a belter – we are joined by Andy Bell of AJ Bell fame. I wonder what we might talk about? Lots of things – the best way to find out is to join us at 12.30pm here. And the YouTubes is always available for watching back later if you can’t make it.
  • This story made me howl with laughter, except no, no it didn’t. Absolutely remarkable.
  • I mentioned PE, and here’s a very timely piece by Laura Miller on that very subject. Quite a long read but worth it.
  • And your music choice this week is a new lovely dreamy thing by Isle of Eigg denizen, kaftan devotee, polymath and all round beardie Pictish Trail. Please accept Dream Wall into your ears, and relax.

See you next week

Mark