Formerly known as WealthBar, CI Direct Investing is one of the top online financial planning and investment platforms in Canada.
Online wealth management firms (aka robo-advisors) make it easier for everyday investors to access professional portfolio management services.
This service is available at a lower fee compared to traditional mutual funds, and, you do not have to worry about picking stocks, ETFs or rebalancing compared to using a discount broker.
In addition to CI Direct Investing, other robo-advisors operating in Canada include Wealthsimple, Questwealth, and Justwealth.
With its rebranding from WealthBar to CI Direct Investing, the company has taken its service offerings up a notch by pairing up with one of the largest investment firms in the country.
This CI Direct Investing review covers its accounts and portfolio options, performance fees, promotional offer, and whether the company is safe.
Who is CI Direct Investing?
WealthBar (now CI Direct Investing) was founded in 2012 by Tea Nicola and Chris Nicola. It is registered as a Portfolio Manager in all the provinces and territories in Canada. In May 2020, CI Financial Corp. acquired 100% of the company and rebranded it to CI Direct Investing.
CI Financial Corp. (CI) is an independent global asset manager with more than $194.2 billion in assets under management as of September 30, 2020.
Other businesses operating under the CI brand include Virtual Brokers (BBS Securities Inc.), Assante Wealth Management, and CI Investments.
CI Financial Corp. is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol “CIX”.
CI Direct Investing Accounts and Portfolios
CI Direct Investing offers a variety of accounts and portfolios to meet the varying needs of investors.
The company uses low-cost diversified Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) to create portfolios that are customized based on your risk tolerance and investment objectives.
Portfolios available include:
- Aggressive ETF Portfolios
- Growth ETF Portfolios
- Conservative ETF Portfolios
- Safety ETF Portfolios
- Balanced ETF Portfolios
You can hold any of their portfolios in an RRSP, TFSA, RESP, RRIF, LIF, LIRA or RDSP account.
CI Direct Investing also offers business and corporate investment accounts, and non-registered taxable personal accounts.
The individual ETFs making up the portfolios are from well-known fund companies like Vanguard, Horizons, iShares and BMO, and include:
|Horizons S&P 500 ETF||HXS|
|iShares Core MSCI EAFE IMI||XEF|
|BMO High Yield US Corp Bd Hdgd to CAD ETF||ZHY|
|Horizon S&P/TSX60 ETF||HXT|
|Horizons Equal Weight Canada REIT ETF||HCRE|
|BMD Mid Corporate Bond Index ETF||ZCM|
|BMO Mid-Term US IG Corporate Bond Hedged to CAD||ZMU|
|Vanguard Canadian Short-Term Bond ETF||VSB|
How to Open a CI Direct Investing Account
You can easily open a CI Direct Investing account online following these steps:
Step 1: Create an account here. This link contains an offer to invest up to $10,000 free for 1 year!
Step 2: Choose the type of account you want to invest in e.g. RRSP, TFSA, or savings account.
Step 3: Indicate your investment time frame and risk tolerance.
CI Direct Investing recommends a portfolio based on your answers. For example, it may recommend an Aggressive Portfolio if you are comfortable with taking a higher risk in exchange for maximising your return over a longer period.
Step 4: Accept the recommended portfolios or choose another. If you have questions at this point, there’s an option to chat with a portfolio manager.
Step 5: Enter your personal details including your Social Insurance Number, address, and employment.
Step 6: Fund your account with at least $1,000 and start investing after signing off on the paperwork.
CI Direct Investing Benefits and Features
Robo-advisors like CI Direct Investing take the guesswork out of investing and eliminate the work required when you choose a do-it-yourself approach.
Here are some of the benefits you can expect:
1. Diversified Portfolios: Your portfolio contains thousands of stocks and bonds from all over the world, so it is less volatile and maximizes your return for your level of risk exposure.
2. Low-Cost Investing: Compared to a mutual fund that costs up to 2% per year in fees, CI Direct Investing Portfolios charge a maximum management fee of 0.60%. When you add in the built-in ETF Management Expense Ratio (MER), the maximum amount you are paying is around 0.85% per year (assuming a maximum ETF MER of 0.25%). This is less than half the fee of comparable mutual funds.
3. Professional Management Team: This team at CI Direct Investing is made up of Chartered Financial Planners, Chartered Financial Analysts, and financial experts with decades of experience in the investment industry.
4. Free Financial Advice: You can ask questions at any time and speak to a registered financial advisor for free by phone and email. If your financial circumstances change, a portfolio manager is available to re-assess your portfolio type. Clients also get access to tax optimization, estate planning, insurance needs analysis, and more.
5. Automatic Rebalancing: Your portfolio is automatically rebalanced as needed in order to keep it in line with your investment objectives.
6. Security: CI Direct Investing is a registered portfolio manager. Your investments through the company are protected by the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF) up to $1 million.
7. Free Portfolio Management: New clients who sign up here can invest up to $10,000 free for one year without paying management fees.
8. Access to Socially-Responsible Investing (SRI): Clients have access to an SRI portfolio using the Invesco Cleantech ETF Fund (PZD).
9. Referral Program: Clients can refer friends and family to invest with CI Direct Investing and earn $50 for each referral that invests $5,000 or more. Your referral also gets a $50 cash bonus, so it’s a WIN-WIN. To refer someone to the platform, simply send them your referral link.
Downsides of CI Directing Investing
To start investing on the platform, you must deposit at least $1,000 in your account
CI Direct Investing fees are higher than the average for robo-advisors, especially when you have a moderate balance (<$150,000). When your account assets exceed $500,000, the fees become a lot more competitive.
CI Direct Investing Fees
Investors may be able to improve their overall return over time by minimizing the fees they pay for portfolio management.
CI Direct Investing has the following fee structure:
- First $150,000: 0.6% annually
- Next $350,000: 0.40% annually
- Above $500,000: 0.35% annually
In addition to the management fees, you account pays ETF MERs to the fund companies. The MER for ETF Portfolios is between 0.18% and 0.25%
You can take a look at a comparison of robo-advisor fees here.
CI Direct Investing Portfolio Performance
The hypothetical performance track record for CI Direct Investing Portfolios are easily accessible on their website.
For example, for the Aggressive ETF Portfolios, a snapshot of its performance as of August 31, 2020, is shown in the table below:
Based on a hypothetical investment of $100,000 invested in the Aggressive Portfolio since its inception on August 19, 2014, the cumulative performance of the portfolio would look as follows:
CI Direct Investing High Interest Saving Account
Looking for a savings account that actually pays interest on your money? CI Direct Investing offers a high-interest savings account with the following features:
- 0.5% non promotional rate
- No monthly fees
- Free transactions
- No minimum deposit
- Interest is calculated daily and paid monthly
The funds in your CI Direct Investing Savings Account counts towards your total asset and can be used to cover your investment fees.
The savings account is also eligible for protection by CIPF and is only available in Canadian dollars.
Learn about the top savings accounts rates in Canada.
Socially-Responsible Investing Options
CI Direct Investing offers a socially responsible portfolio or Cleantech you can add to your investments. Cleantech focuses on investing in companies that promote the use of renewable energy resources including hydro, solar, wind, etc.
When you opt for Cleantech in your portfolio, CI Direct Investing invests 5% of your money into the Invesco Cleantech ETF Fund (PZO).
Investing in Cleantech is one way to diversify your investment holdings while also investing according to your values.
The ETF MER for portfolios with Cleantech add-on is between 0.20% and 0.30%.
CI Direct Investing Private Investment Portfolios
CI Direct Investing offers its client’s access to Private Portfolios that offer private asset classes and reduced volatility.
These portfolios are managed by seasoned money managers and provide access to unconventional assets you typically cannot access unless you have a $1 million or more to invest.
Assets that are accessible via Private Investment Portfolios include real estate, private equity, mortgaged, alternative strategies, and preferred shares.
You can open an Aggressive, Balanced, Safety Private and Flex Safety Private Portfolios.
The Management Expense Ratio for these portfolios is higher and ranges from 1.00% to 1.55%.
Is CI Direct Investing Safe and Legit?
One of the largest investment firms in Canada owns CI Direct Investing (formerly WealthBar). Its parent company, CI Financial Corp., has been serving Canadians since 1965.
CI Direct Investing is a registered portfolio manager. Since the cash and securities in your account are held with custodians who are members of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF), your funds are protected up to $1 million.
In addition, the company uses industry-standard security measures to protect your account, including encryption and advanced login features.
CI Direct Investing Promotion
Readers of Savvy New Canadians can invest with CI Direct Investing for free for one year!
To take the advantage of this offer, open an account here and fund your account with at least $1,000.
The management fee is waived on up to $10,000 invested for 1 year.
You can also move your investment from other financial institutions to CI Direct Investing. The Transfer fees charged by your current institution are waived up to $150, if the assets you are transferring exceed $25,000.
CI Direct Investing VS Wealthsimple Vs Others
How does CI Direct Investing compare to other robo-advisors on fees, account openings, promotions, safety, and financial planning?
|CI Direct Investing||Wealthsimple||Questwealth Portfolios|
|Account types||RRSP, TFSA, RESP, RRIF, LIF, LIRA, RDSP, non-reg., business accounts, cash||RRSP, TFSA, RESP, RRIF, LIRA, LIF, corporate, personal non-reg., cash||TFSA, RRSP, LIRA, RESP, RRIF, LIF|
|Portfolios offered||5 types; Cleantech portfolios; Private Investment Portfolios||3 types; Halal portfolios, SRI portfolio||5 types; SRI portfolios|
|Management fees||First $150K: 0.60%; next $350K: 0.40%; over $500K: 0.35%||First $100K: 0.50%; over $100K: 0.40%||First $100K: 0.25%; over $100K: 0.20%; FX fees may apply|
|Transfer fees waived||Up to $150 on transfers over $25K||Waived on transfers over $5K||Waived on transfers over $25K|
|Investing strategy||Active-Passive (hybrid)||Passive||Active-Passive (hybrid)|
|Available platforms||Web interface and mobile app||Web interface and mobile app||Web interface and mobile app|
|Customer support options||Phone, email, and chat||Phone, email, and chat||Phone, email, and chat|
|Free financial planning||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Promotional offer||Invest up to $10K free for 1 year||Get a $50 cash bonus when you deposit at least $500||Invest up to $10K free for 1 year|
|SRI||Cleantech portfolios (PZD)||Wealthsimple SRI portfolio (5 ETFs)||Questwealth SRI (several ETF options)|
|Other offerings||High Interest Savings Account||Wealthsimple Cash (savings), Wealthsimple Trade (brokerage), SimpleTax, and Wealthsimple Crypto||Questrade (brokerage)|
|Learn more||Apply||Learn more||Learn more|
CI Direct Investing Review 2021
CI Direct Investing (formerly WealthBar) is one of the best robo-advisors in Canada. Read this CI Direct Investing review to learn about their portfolios, fees, performance, promotional offer and more.
- Access to diversified portfolios and SRIs
- Low-cost investing
- Free financial advice
- Automatic rebalancing
- New account sign-up offer
- Noteworthy referral program
- A minimum investment of $1,000 is required
- Accounts under $150K pay 0.6% which is 0.1% more than some competitors