CI Direct Investing Review (Formerly WealthBar)

May 8, 2020
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At Yore Oyster, we strive to help you make wise financial decisions. We're committed to giving you the most relevant, actionable advice anywhere.

Minimum Deposit 6
Service Fees6
MER Fees5
Withdrawal and Deposit options8
Portfolio Options9
Portfolio Performance8
Usability10
Human Advice 10
Customer Service8
Referral Program10
Total80
We recommend CI Direct Investing: If you’re interested in socially responsible investing and want a robo advisor that offers simple fees and no trading fees. Also, if you want customized financial advice, you should definitely check out CI Direct Investing. 
We don’t recommend CI Direct Investing: If you prefer to avoid percentage-based fee rates and prefer a robo advisor with fixed rates, we suggest that you check our post on Nest Wealth.

What Is CI Direct Investing?

CI Direct Investing was launched in 2014 by co-founders Tea and Chris Nicola, who are a married couple and started the company with the purpose of making financial advice available for everyone. 

CI Direct Investing is a company that offers financial advice, planning tools and investment management services. This robo advisor seeks to provide the most value possible while keeping costs low. Naturally, there are quite a few competitors that also offer great digital investing options, so what makes CI Direct Investing special? Well, in this article we’ll answer that question.

Here’s everything you need to know about CI Direct Investing.

CI Direct Investing Features

Here are some of the main features offered by CI Direct Investing:

Financial Planning: With CI Direct Investing you’ll be getting the advice of professional for no additional cost. A financial advisor will help you review your plan and clear your doubts.

Tax-loss harvesting: Also known as “Tax-loss selling”, this is the strategy that is implemented near the end of the year (also may happen any time in a tax year) and means that you sell investments at a loss to reduce your tax liability. This strategy is ideal for long-term investors since they can save money by using it in some cases.

Private Portfolio Investment & Education: With CI Direct Investing you’ll get access to great investment classes that include private investments that offer diversification benefits for you. 

Automatic rebalancing: With CI Direct Investing your asset allocation will be automatically adjusted at a quarterly minimum. They will also adjust it when it deviates from its original target by more than 5% or when distributions or contributions are made. 

SRI Portfolio: You can choose to add cleantech to any portfolio you own. This socially responsible investment option focuses on innovations on clean energy. However, take into account that it may not be the most profitable option to invest in.

Insurance: CI Direct Investing is also a Full Life Insurance agent that works in the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario, so they sell independent insurances.

Account Types Offered by CI Direct Investing

These are the types of accounts offered by CI Direct Investing from which you can benefit depending on your financial goals and needs.

RRSP

A Registered Retirement Savings Plan is a tax-advantaged registered account, this means that tax on contributions for this account is deferred until retirement, this way the investments in the account can grow tax-free. 

TFSA 

A Tax-Free Savings Account allows you to grow tax-free throughout your lifetime while also allowing you to withdraw from the account without paying tax, unlike with an RRSP.

RESP 

A Registered Education Savings Plan is a registered account that allows parents, family or caregivers to save for kids’ post-secondary education from their birth, the money grows tax-free and since lots of students have little to no income, the government also allows them to withdraw the money tax-free.

Savings Account 

 This high-interest savings account is available to existing CI Direct Investing clients. It’s great because you can save more money with its nice rates, all without having to worry about any fees at all.

CI Direct Investing Non-Registered Accounts 

These general investment accounts are a great choice for those who have maxed out their RRSSP and TFSA but wish to continue investing. Their main advantage is that they have no limitations on contributions and withdrawals. They’re also ideal if you’re a Canadian living overseas and you want to keep contributing to investments while abroad.

These are the accounts offered for clients with specific financial needs:

RRIF 

A Registered Retirement Income Fund the next step after maxing out the RRSP. Once you turn 71, you can turn your RRSP into an RRIF and start living off that income. It has no minimum required payments. You do however have a minimum amount you must take out each year, but there isn’t limit for withdrawals. 

LIRA 

A Locked-In Retirement Account is a pension fund designed to hold locked-in pension funds for former pension plan members, meaning that withdrawals are not allowed for this account. You can use the funds in the LIRA to buy life annuity or transfers them to a LIF. If you were previously contributing to a pension then switched employers, then this one is relevant for you.

LIF 

A Life Income Fund can be purchased using your LIRA funds once you meet the age requirements. This account will allow you to make regular withdrawals and use the fund in your retirement.

RDSP 

A Registered Disability Savings Plan is a registered savings plan designed for people with disabilities or their caregivers for long-term expenses and helps them with financial security by making them eligible for the tax credit. This means they can benefit from government grants and bonds paid into the RDSP.

Corporate 

CI Direct Investing has non-registers accounts for those investors looking to hold funds under their business name. 

Group RRSP 

This is a company-sponsored plan designed for businesses and employers to help their employees save.

Formal In-Trust 

This account is based accordingly to a legal trust document that will specify how the funds are meant to be used by the beneficiary who may be a child or grandchild. 

Informal In-Trust 

This non-registered account can be opened by parents on behalf of their minor child and unlike the formal in-trust, it does not require any legal trust document to be set up. 

IPP 

An Individual Pension Plan is a tax-deferred alternative to RRSPs. It maximizes the retirement capital of business owners and senior executives. It also allows investors to make greater contributions than RRSPs as soon as they turn 40. 

CI Direct Investing also has other account types available, for example, non-corporate non-personal entities like charity foundations, society and sole proprietorships are also available to open non-registered investment accounts on CI Direct Investing.

How To Open An Account With CI Direct Investing?

Here’s the list of things you need:

  • Your social insurance number.
  • Your spouse’s social insurance number (only for Spousal or Joint accounts).
  • Your employment details (income, occupation, employer, address).
  • Your spouse’s employment details (if applicable).
  • Your banking information (transit, institution, and account).
  • Approximate balances of your investment assets (eg. RRSP, TFSA).
  • Approximate balances for non-mortgage debts.

CI Direct Investing will ask some questions to understand your risk tolerance, investment objective and which type of account you want to open based on this. After this, they will present you with a recommended portfolio based on the answers you provided.

Any other additional information needed for them to open and manage the account will be easily and securely provided from their own app. Keep in mind that the minimum investment amount is $1000.

CI Direct Investing

#1 Minimum Deposit

CI Direct Investing requires a minimum deposit of $1,000. Your account won’t start investing in your selected portfolio until that minimum deposit amount is reached. This is alright, but it’s certainly not the best when it comes to flexibility for a robo advisor.

CI Direct Investing Minimum Deposit Score: 6/10

#2 CI Direct Investing Service Fees

Like any other robo advisor, CI Direct Investing charges less for managing your money than traditional investment funds, which is clearly a huge advantage. CI Direct Investing has a multi-tier fee system that ranges from 0.35% to 0.60% of your assets yearly, depending on how much you invest. This fee covers all the services you get, including portfolio management, financial advisors, rebalancing and trading charges, among others.

CI Direct Investing Service Fees Score: 6/10

#3 CI Direct Investing MER Fees

The Management Expenses Ratio, or MER, is a common fee found in investment companies. MERs vary according to the funds’ structure, size, asset class and many other factors. These are the weighted-average of CI Direct Investing’s portfolios:

CI Direct Investing ETF PortfoliosPrivate Investment Portfolios
Safety0.19%1.00%
Conservative0.23%n/a
Balanced0.25%1.55%
Growth0.26%n/a
Aggressive0.25%1.40%

CI Direct Investing MER Fees Score: 5/10

#4 Deposit and Withdrawal Options

One of the key benefits CI Direct Investing offers is that it allows you to save time by depositing or withdrawing your money from their app.

You can set up an ongoing contribution or make a one-time lump deposit from your bank account. As for withdrawals, you can withdraw your funds from your investment account directly from your mobile device. 

CI Direct Investing Deposit & Withdrawal Options Score: 8/10

#5 CI Direct Investing Portfolio Options

CI Direct Investing offers five different portfolio options for its customers:

Safety ETF Portfolio:

–   Preserves and protects.

–   Made up of 16% equities.

–   69% of bonds

–   A mix of real estate and preferred chars.

Conservative ETF Portfolio:

–   Protects and provides a steady growth

–   Made up of 29% equities

–   65% of bonds

–   A mix of real estate and preferred shares.

Balanced ETF Portfolio

–   Moderate Growth, prone to some volatility

–   Made up of 44% equities

–   41% Bonds

–   A mix of real estate and preferred shares

Growth ETF Portfolio

–   Focused on growth with a moderate volatility

–   Made up of 52.5% equities

–   32.5% bonds

–    A mix of real estate and preferred shares.

Aggressive ETF Portfolio

–   For maximum growth, prone to higher volatility

–   Made up of 62.5% equities

–   22.5% bonds

–   10% Real estate

–   5% preferred shares.

CI Direct Investing offers these portfolios along with a selection of 8-10 ETFs. Options for custom-made portfolios are also available. Some of the ETFs provided are:

  1. BMO Covered Call DJIA Hedged to CAD ETF (ZWA)
  2. Purpose High-Interest Savings ETF (PSA)
  3. BMO Equal Weight REITs ETF (ZRE)
  4. BMO Laddered Preferred Share ETF (ZPR)
  5. BMO High Yld US Corp Bd Hdgd to CAD ETF (ZHY)
  6. iShares Core MSCI EAFE IMI ETF (XEF)
  7. Vanguard Canadian Short-Term Corp Bd ETF (VSC)
  8. Horizons S&P 500 ETF (HXS)
  9. Horizons S&P/TSX 60 ETF (HXT)
  10. Invesco Cleantech ETF (PZD)

CI Direct Investing Portfolio Options Score: 9/10

#6 CI Direct Investing Portfolio Performance

CI Direct Investing is quite transparent with its portfolio performance. They have a whole section of their website where they show in detail all you need to know about the types of portfolios they offer. You can see the performance of each portfolio up until last month. They also have monthly and yearly data showing relevant stats for each portfolio, like cumulative and annualized returns. 

PortfolioAnnualized returns
Aggressive ETF Portfolio8.17%
Growth ETF Portfolio7.28%
Balanced ETF Portfolio6.83%
Conservative ETF Portfolio4.54%
Safety ETF Portfolio3.13%

Compared to other robo advisors, these return rates range between what’s considered good. CI Direct Investing’s annualized growth rate is 5.83%, really good compared with ModernAdvisor’s 4.38% (lowest for robo advisors) and Justwealth’s 6.62% (highest among robo advisors).

CI Direct Investing Portfolio Performance Score: 8/10

#7 Human Advice

As a CI Direct Investing client, you have access to a dedicated advisor who’ll help you with financial aspects such as planning and tax optimization. This isn’t charged extra or commission-based, so rest assured they will give you quality advice that is relevant to your needs. You can reach the advisors by scheduling a phone call, through the chat option online or by email.

CI Direct Investing Human Advice Score: 10/10

#8 Usability 

In the Google Play Store, the app has 4.7/5 from 188 people who have ranked it and in the Apple Store, the app has 4.6/5. So it has pretty much the same scoring for both systems, this means that it does not present any bugs or incompatibility issues. 

CI Direct Investing offers not only an app but also a website. Both have an excellent design that is easy to navigate and use. Great layout and overall very user-friendly. 

CI Direct Investing Usability Score: 10/10

#9 Customer Service

If you need to get in touch with CI Direct Investing, they offer some customer support contact options such as:

Their head office address

#490 – 1122 Mainland Street

Vancouver, B.C., V6B 5L1

Email: info@CI Direct Investing.com

Phone number: +1.888.373.7674

The email reply wait is usually a day.

CI Direct Investing Customer Service Score: 8/10

#10 Referral Program

As of right now and until April 30th, CI Direct Investing is offering a referral program. You refer a friend using your referral link, open an account and fund it with $5,000 or more and then you’ll both get $100! For more information on this promotion check it here. 

CI Direct Investing Referral Program Score: 10/10

In Summary

CI Direct Investing was created to help people who weren’t managing seven-figure amounts of money to invest wisely and make the most out of their money with the right resources and tools, this is why they offer free advice along with an affordable fee system.

The variety of accounts offered and ETFs available in its portfolios make CI Direct Investing a great, attractive choice. Naturally, this makes them very useful for those looking to get into the world of investing. With CI Direct Investing, you get to see your money grow without worrying about studying the market or taking big risks that you may not be ready for.

Naturally, CI Direct Investing is not the only robo advisor available. If you’re interested, check out our comparison post to find out about all the Canadian robo advisors out there.

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