Toronto-based CI Financial Corp. has taken full control of digital financial planner WealthBar Financial Services Inc. and announced its plans to merge the platform with discount brokerage Virtual Brokers under the brand CI Direct Investing.
CI, which already held a 75% stake in WealthBar, announced on Thursday that it had acquired the remaining 25% of the Vancouver-based online financial planning platform. WealthBar will be rebranded CI Direct Investing in the coming months, CI said, and Virtual Brokers will be rebranded when the two platforms are fully integrated.
“The unified CI Direct Investing brand will be consistent with the new branding strategy for CI Financial, making it clear that these platforms are part of a large, integrated asset and wealth management company,” Kurt MacAlpine, CEO of CI Financial, said in a statement.
The firm said that CI Direct Investing will offer a wide range of services, including online brokerage services for DIY investors provided by Virtual Brokers, and the wealth management and financial planning services offered by WealthBar. The “hybrid” model will allow clients to access professionally managed investment portfolios and personal financial advice.
“We believe that professional advice is as critical as ever and our online platforms are important complements to our traditional advisory businesses,” MacAlpine said.
CI’s latest transaction is part of a wider digital transformation the firm is undertaking, which has been accelerated under MacAlpine, who took over as CEO in September, replacing Peter Anderson.
CI first acquired a majority stake in WealthBar in January 2019. Three WealthBar executives — CEO Tea Nicola, CTO Chris Nicola, and CIO and CCO Neville Joanes — retained a minority stake in the company at the time. They will all remain with WealthBar now that CI has taken full control of the company.
In September, CI Financial announced that its full-service advice subsidiary Assante Wealth Management would be offering its advisors and clients access to online investing platform Assante Connect, which uses WealthBar technology.
In October, WealthBar Financial acquired Snap Projections Inc., a financial planning software that helps wealth professionals build customized wealth and retirement plans for clients.