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Nucleus accuses Novia of ‘aggressively’ recruiting staff

Nucleus accuses Novia of ‘aggressively’ recruiting staff
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Nucleus has accused rival platform Novia of “aggressively” recruiting its staff after losing four employees to the company over the past year.

In an email sent earlier this year and seen by FTAdviser, a member of Nucleus’ executive team said the company’s application of six-month non-compete clauses was “commercially appropriate” in the wake of what they called Novia's “aggressive recruitment activities” regarding its staff.

Nucleus has applied a handful of these non-compete clauses across both its middle management and executive suite over the last year. 

The clause - or ‘covenant’ - can be applied when an employee decides to leave the firm to join a competitor. It requires the employee to serve three months notice and then take a further three months as gardening leave.

In response, a Nucleus spokesperson told FTAdviser: “We do not comment on individual staff departures, or confidential contracting matters. However, in business the application of reasonable non-compete agreements is commonplace.”

A number of Nucleus employees have left the company since the £145mn James Hay takeover in February 2021 with the firm’s founder, David Ferguson, among them.

Ferguson had - according to both former and current employees - been a huge part of the Nucleus’ adviser-led culture.

One former employee told FTAdviser this culture was the firm’s “USP”. “It wasn’t just something fluffy, we would use it with advisers and they really bought into it," they said.

After a second buyout by HPS, shareholder Wellington Wealth told FTAdviser Nucleus’ success was largely down to culture and people as well as its client focus.

Since its change in ownership, Nucleus’ strategy has been to focus on achieving scale with chief executive Richard Rowney saying a bigger platform will be able to offer a better service to advisers. The company has also focused on the FNZ migration of James Hay clients - with Nucleus clients to eventually follow. 

FTAdviser also revealed Nucleus is now mulling the sale of its discretionary fund management business, IMX.

As Nucleus pushes on with this strategy, employees have continued to exit the business. The four Nucleus employees which have chosen to move to Novia over the past year include Barry Neilson, the platform’s ex-chief commercial officer, and Garry Mcluckie, its former marketing director.

The two others, its head of events Jayne Scott and account management head Amira Norris, are both due to start at Novia later this year after their non-compete clauses are up.

Responding to claims of “aggressive” recruitment tactics, Neilson told FTAdviser: "We are a fast-evolving business that is always on the lookout for new talent. Over the last 12 months we have attracted some great people from across the sector, including a number of platforms. 

“I'm delighted that three fantastic people from Nucleus have decided that Novia is the best place to build their career. That brings the total to four from Nucleus, that’s not what I would describe as aggressive."