CI Direct Investing Review

CI Direct Investing Review

Written by Priyanka Correia
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated October 6, 2021

Wealthbar is now CI Direct Investing, this article has been updated to reflect this.

As robo-advisors grow in popularity, more and more online investment platforms are popping. CI Direct Investing is somewhat of a pioneer in the online investment industry, as it was one of the first to bring affordable investment options to Canadians. It was launched in 2013 by founders Tea and Chris Nicola, who wanted to not only make professionally managed investments and financial advice available to the average Canadian but they also wanted to change the way we invest in this new digital era. 

Now, CI Direct Investing has turned into an investing platform that is safe, affordable, and easy to use. Wealthbar has achieved what many new robo-advisors have not, a robo-advisor with real human support. It balances the line between technology and human connection perfectly, making it a favourite amongst many Canadians. 

Let’s take a deeper look to see what CI Direct Investing is all about and if it is the right investing platform for you. 

What Is CI Direct Investing’s Investment Strategy? 

CI Direct Investing’s investing approach is based on long-term results. They diversify your portfolio to minimize your risk and optimize returns and cash flow. With your assets distributed in a myriad of ETFs, even if the market dips you’ll still be in a good position. 

CI Direct Investing ensures a higher return than regular mutual funds by having lower fees than traditional investment advisors and by carefully choosing ETFs that have low MERs, a low share price, high trading volume, and ETFs that have assets under management. 

How Do You Start Investing With CI Direct Investing?

First, you’ll need to open an account with CI Direct Investing by filling out an online application. There are five steps you must go through to complete your account and start investing.

  1. Create an account. Enter your email to create a username and password.
  2. Choose an account you’d like to open. CI Direct Investing offers 15 different account types including RRSP, TFSA, savings accounts, corporate accounts, IIP, and more. 
  3. Select a portfolio. CI Direct Investing will ask you a series of questions to assess what kind of investment portfolio will best match your tolerance for risk and investment goals. 
  4. Personal details. CI Direct Investing requires some basic personal information like name, address, SIN, employment information, etc. 
  5. Fund and Sign. The last step involves adding your bank information so you can fund your investments. Lastly, you’ll have to e-sign an agreement so that you can start investing with CI Direct Investing. 

Once your account is set-up you will have access to a free financial advisor who can help review your financial situation and create a detailed plan on how to achieve your financial goals. 

You’ll also have access to a virtual portal where you can keep an eye on your investment accounts. You’ll be able to track the performance of your investments with CI Direct Investing’s easy-to-read charts and graphs. The ability to record your gains, losses and rate of return will help you strategize future investments and how to better reach your financial goals.

Types Of Investment Portfolios Available

Each of the portfolios below is composed of equity, bonds, preferred shares and real estate. 

Portfolio TypeBest For EquityBonds
Safety This portfolio is best suited to high risk-averse individuals who want to protect their investments.16%69%
ConservativeThis portfolio is best suited to risk-averse individuals who want to see steady growth over a long period.29%56%
BalancedThis portfolio is best suited to individuals comfortable with low to medium risk. It provides moderate growth with some volatility.44%41%
GrowthThis portfolio is best suited for individuals comfortable with medium to high-risk investments. While the return is great, so is the risk. 52.5%32.5%
Aggressive This portfolio has the highest growth and volatility. It’s best suited for individuals who have money to spare. 62.5%22.5%

How Much Does It Cost To Invest With CI Direct Investing? 

CI Direct Investing’s fees are broken down into 3 tiers, which will be used to cover the costs of managing your portfolio. Depending on how much you invest, you’ll fall into one of the three tiers. 

  • 0.6% for $150,000 and under
  • 0.4% for $150,00 to $500,000
  • 0.35% for $500,00 and above

Example: If you invest $10,000, you’ll be charged a fee of 0.6% a year, which equals $5 a month or 60 a year. 

MER Fees

The management Expense Ratio (MER) fees are built into the investment. As such, it’s not an amount you will see deducted from your account like the annual fees. Depending on your portfolio type and investment choice, your MER fees will differ. 

Safety PortfolioConservative PortfolioBalanced PortfolioGrowth PortfolioAggressive Portfolio
ETFs0.18%0.21%0.24%0.24%0.25%
Private ETFs1.00%1.55%1.40%

What Perks Does CI Direct Investing Offer? 

Access to exclusive investment portfolios – Many private investment portfolios that are usually only accessible to rich investors are made available to all CI Direct Investing users. 

Certified Financial Planner. CI Direct Investing balances the line between technology and human connection by providing access to a Certified Financial Planner. While your investments are managed automatically, you can also seek advice from a real expert who can help you review and customize your portfolio to your needs. 

Tax-loss harvesting. CI Direct Investing offers tax-loss harvesting when you need to offset a capital gains tax bill

Free transfers. When you transfer funds and other investments you have from one financial institution to CI Direct Investing, you will incur a fee. However, if you transfer an amount valued at $25,000 or more, CI Direct Investing will cover the fees for you.  

Clean Investments. Those who are more socially conscious and are looking to invest in a way that helps grow and shape a greener future can add Cleantech to their portfolio. Cleantech is an ETF that allows you to invest in companies that focus on renewable energy sources and other technologies that help the environment. 

Automatic rebalancing. As your investments grow and change, CI Direct Investing will automatically readjust your portfolio to ensure it continues to reflect your risk tolerance and goal. This is done on a quarterly basis or when you make contributions to your investments

Insurance. CI Direct Investing also offers full life insurance in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. 

Investment app. CI Direct Investing’s investment app allows you to keep updated with your investment portfolio on the go. It also provides expert advice if you have any questions or concerns. 

Who Is CI Direct Investing Best Suited For? 

CI Direct Investing is a great investment platform for Canadians who are not just new to investing but those who are interested in investing in assets that are typically only accessible by the wealthy. You simply need $1,000 to start investing, making it accessible to most Canadians. It’s also a good choice for investors who would like to invest in a way that leaves them hands-free. With CI Direct Investing’s algorithm managing your profile and automatically rebalancing it as the market changes, you can invest without worries. 

CI Direct Investing Overview 

Minimum investment$1,000
Types of accountsRRSP, TFSA, RESP, RDSP, Savings accounts, Non-registered accounts, RRIF, LIRA, LIF, Corporate accounts, Group RRSPs, Formal In-Trusts, Informal In-Trusts, IPP, PPP
Tax-loss harvestingYes
Dividend reinvestmentYes
Private investment portfoliosYes
Socially responsible investing (SRI)Yes
Automatic rebalancingYes
Access to a financial advisorYes
InsuranceYes

Who’s Better: Robo Advisor Or Human Advisor 

While robo-advisors have been rapidly gaining popularity, they are not the right choice for all investors. Depending on your needs and investment goals, a robo-advisor or human advisor can work better with you.

You Should Choose CI Direct Investing If: 

  • You want automation. CI Direct Investing’s algorithm will actively manage and rebalance your investments so that they continually stay in line with your financial goals. 
  • You don’t meet the minimum. Many traditional advisors will require you to have at least a few thousand dollars before they’d consider working with you. With CI Direct Investing, you simply need $1,000 before you can start investing. 
  • You have a low tolerance for risk. CI Direct Investing offers many different portfolios, one of which is used to protect your investments. While the return on investment is quite slow, it’s a good way to get your feet wet. 
  • You are new to investing. With CI Direct Investing’s algorithm managing your investments, you can simply sit back and watch your wealth grow, making it perfect for inexperienced investors.

You Should Choose A Human Advisor If: 

  • You need communication. Those who want to speak with an advisor for all investment decisions will probably be better off with a human advisor. 
  • You want to have a hand in your investments. If you want to actively be a part of managing your investments, then a human advisor will be a better choice for you. You’ll be able to discuss where and how much you want to invest.  
  • You have complicated finances – If your investment needs are complicated and involve a variety of assets, an advisor will be better able to give you advice and strategies on how to best grow your wealth. 
  • You want higher returns –  Experienced investors may want to use riskier strategies to gain a higher return. While robo-advisors do have riskier portfolios, you don’t have much control over it. With a human advisor, you’ll be better able to discuss strategies and make better moves.

Bottom Line

Investing is important when you’re trying to reach expensive financial goals like buying a house or saving for retirement or for your child’s education. It can be extremely hard to achieve by merely saving unless you’re making hundreds of thousands of dollars. While high-interest savings accounts do exist, it does not yield the same return as a real investment. While investing can be risky, you can minimize your risk by diversifying your assets and investing in less volatile investments. CI Direct Investing’s investing approach embraces this strategy and really focuses on growing your wealth for long term goals. 

Learn More

Priyanka is a personal finance expert at Loans Canada. She is passionate about money management and educating Canadian consumers about how to take control of their financial lives. She has taken financial control of her life by using Mint to budget and track her expenses while growing her wealth by investing through Wealthsimple. She also believes in having an emergency fund, so she keeps a good sum of money in an easily accessible high-interest savings account. She also uses the American Express Cobalt Card to earn points on all her purchases, further fueling her savings goal. She also uses Loans Canada’s lender directory whenever she wants to compare rates from different lenders.

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