Rating
4.1

Introduction

Wealthbar makes it easy to build your financial future with convenient online savings and investing tools, and financial advice at your fingertips.


One of the greatest challenges that investors experience is coming up with a low-cost portfolio. Creating such a portfolio can be tedious and time-consuming, and for most of us, time is a luxury that we do not always have.

Luckily for you, the world of financial technology is constantly evolving, and this has led to the emergence of Robo-advisors. This technology is a growing phenomenon in online portfolio management and ensures that you do not have to manage your portfolio by yourself.

In this article, we shall do an extensive WealthBar review, one of Canada’s pioneer Robo-advisors. Let’s see what this service is all about.

What is WealthBar?

This is a Canadian-based online Robo advisor that puts together a team of wealth management experts and reliable investment algorithms in one package. With this service, you will get all the financial advice and low-cost ETF portfolios as per your risk tolerance and long-term financial targets.

In August 2020, the service rebranded to CI Direct Investing and is now part of CI Financial investment company. Even with the new branding, the service continues to provide financial advice auto-managed portfolios for their clients.

The area where this service outdoes similar platforms is the provision of private investment portfolios and professionally managed portfolios.

About the Developers

WealthBar was launched in 2013 by Chris and Tea Nicola, who are husband and wife. Tea is a financial advisor and CEO of Nicola Wealth Management, a firm that offers wealth management services to high net-worth investors through private investment pools.

Chris, on his part, joined the financial world by working for his father’s wealth management company. Besides that, he was also an experienced web and software developer.

Since Nicola Wealth only dealt with the affluent investors who are the minority in the market, Tea and Chris decided to offer financial advice to the remaining investors. That is how they went on to create WealthBar (currently CI Direct Investing).

Currently, the service has members who include portfolio managers, financial advisors, and CFAs, all of whom play a part in taking care of your investment. Besides that, there are web developers and graphic designers who ensure that the interface runs without any glitches.

This service has over $275 million in assets that are under its management.

Key Features of The Program

There are tons of features that would make this program to be attractive for you. We shall discuss them below in detail.

I) Financial Advice

Once you open an account on this platform, you will be assigned a financial advisor whose duty will be to guide you on your investment journey. If you have any query concerning investments or the service, the dedicated professional will always be there to respond to your issues.

II) Financial Planning

Next up is a tool that you can find on the platform’s dashboard, and you can use it to develop financial plans as per your long-term financial or retirement plans. You can use this tool to compare your current financial situation with your set goals.

Some of the information you can get here includes the amount you will need to invest in your Registered Retirement Savings Plan and the length of time your savings might last during your retirement.

On top of everything, you will also get a licensed financial planner that will provide you with clarity on anything you need.

III) Investment Management (Free)

This is a feature that will appeal to you most if you are a beginner. If you are a newbie or investor with a small amount to invest, the service will manage your first $5,000 at no cost. Who wouldn’t be attracted by that offer?

IV) Customized Portfolio

Another notable aspect of this platform is the customized platform that is based on your risk tolerance and returns’ target. In general, we can say that the portfolio is built with risk reduction, profit maximization, and diversification as the main factors considered.

V) Automatic Rebalancing

Any time that your portfolio deviates more than 5% from the target allocation, this service is designed to rebalance the portfolio automatically. 

VI) A Straightforward Fee Structure

In most cases, the fee structure for such programs can be complicated due to hidden charges and commissions that the developer is not always open about. Luckily for you, there is nothing about this service’s pricing that will confuse you since there are no trading fees or commissions earned on ETFs.

VII) Socially Responsible Investing 

With this feature, you can invest while staying within your beliefs and without harming your surroundings. In fact, there is the Cleantech portfolio that allows you to invest while factoring in environmental benefits.

VIII) Security

An area of concern for most online investment platforms is the fear of losing all your funds. But with WealthBar, you can be sure that your invested capital is safe since it is held by NBIN, BBS, and Credential Securities, all of which are independent custodians who are members of CIPF and IIROC.

Should these custodians go bankrupt at any point, your funds will be insured up to $1 million, depending on the account type.

The Investment Accounts that you can Use with CI Direct Investing

Some of the investment accounts that you can use with this service include:

  • Registered Retirement Savings Plan- Individual, group, or married couples
  • Life Income Fund
  • Corporate or business investment accounts
  • Registered Education Savings Plan- RESP
  • Registered Disability Savings Plan- RDSP
  • Non-registered investment account- Joint and Individual

The Investment Options

If you settle on this service, you will get the opportunity to invest in ETF and Private Investment Portfolios. Let’s look at them briefly.

I) ETF Portfolios

These portfolios are categorized into five risk levels to offer you the diversity to find the one that meets your risk preference. So, the risk-takers, conservative and neutral investors can find something to go for.

Here they are:

  • Safety Portfolio

This is the safest option on offer and ensures that your capital has the least exposure to risk. For the past five years, it has posted an average return of 3.05% plus has a volatility rate of 3.25%.

  • Conservative Portfolio

Next up is a portfolio that would suit investors who lean towards minimizing risk but still intend to post significant returns. For the past five years, this portfolio has an average return of 4.48% and a volatility rate of 4.69%.

  • Balanced Portfolio

This portfolio acts as the middle ground whereby your capital will not be kept too conservative, nor will it be exposed to too much risk. Even with the fluctuation that this portfolio is likely to experience, it still offers a better long-term overall return than the other portfolio types.

It has posted a return of 6.06% over the past five years with a volatility rate of 5.97%.

  • Growth Portfolio

The ETF Growth Portfolio is characterized by more volatile investments while ensuring that your capital is not exposed to significant risk. If you are a long-term investor who can tolerate some losses and still have time to wait for market recovery, this portfolio is just for you.

  • Aggressive Portfolio

As the name suggests, this is the most risk-inclined option that we shall look at. Even though it maximizes your returns, it also exposes you to short-term risk. For the past five years, it has posted a return of 8.00% and has a volatility rate of 7.52%.

II) Private Investment Portfolios (PIPs)

PIPs is a feature that will give you access to investments that seemed only suited to wealthy investors. With this feature, you can use WealthBar to create a more diversified portfolio.

The three different types of PIPs on offer include:

  • Safety Private Portfolio

This type exposes your investment to the least risk, has an acceptable rate of return, and has the lowest volatility rate.

  • Balanced Private Portfolio

The next portfolio is for an investor looking for a more balanced approach to their investment. This is because it offers a more significant return and also has better volatility. Over the last five years, this type posted returns of 7.14% with a volatility rate of 3.51%.

  • Aggressive Private Portfolio

If you are an investor seeking the same growth rate as the Aggressive ETF portfolio but with lower volatility, this option would be perfect for you. It recorded a return rate of 7.96% and volatility of 4.71% over the past five years.

The Pricing and other Fees

For an investment of up to $150,000, the service charges you a management fee of 0.60% while it drops to 0.40% for investments of up to $500,000. And for figures above $500,000, you will be charged 0.35% of your investment.

On top of that, you will also pay for the expense ratios of the ETFs that you invest in, whereby the standard portfolios’ charges range between 0.18% and 0.25%. When it comes to the private portfolios, the expense ratio is between 1.00% and 1.55%.

Who is this Service Best for?

Are you a long-term investor who needs access to a financial planner and automated investments? If you are, this service is just for you, and it will allow you to open multiple savings, retirements, and inheritance accounts for your family.

Keep in mind that the returns on the different portfolios we have looked at are relatively low, while the expense ratios of the underlying ETFs are pretty high.

Pros and Cons

Let’s now summarize some of the benefits and drawbacks that we found with this service.

Pros

  • Has a straightforward fee structure with no hidden charges
  • Gives you unlimited access to a dedicated financial planner
  • Gives you a wide range of portfolios to choose from
  • Allows you to open different investment accounts
  • Gives you access to the otherwise ‘reserved’ investment portfolios

Cons

  • The fees are higher than competing platforms
  • Needs a minimum deposit of $1,000 which can be quite high for some

Closing Remarks

In the end, we can conclude that WealthBar is one of the safest and best Canadian Robo investors in the market. Once you sign up for it, you will get access to dedicated financial planners, human financial advice, private investment portfolios, and financial planning. 

Keep in mind that there are cheaper options of Canadian Robo advisors that will charge you lower fees in general, such as WealthSimple.