Vancouver-based robo-advisor WealthBar Financial Services Inc. is teaming up with Toronto-based insurance distribution firm PPI to launch a new platform that combines online portfolio management with face-to-face advice, the companies announced on Tuesday.
The new service, called PPI Valet, is powered by WealthBar’s robo-advisor platform and allows advisors who are licensed to sell only insurance through PPI’s two managing general agencies — PPI Advisory and PPI Solutions Inc. — to offer their clients access to professionally managed investment portfolios.
“We’re taking on the portfolio management, and everything compliance-wise and [on the] back office for the advisors,” says Tea Nicola, CEO and co-founder of WealthBar, in an interview with Investment Executive (IE). “So, it’s a very easy way for advisors to put clients into a low-cost portfolio — and we take care of everything for them.”
For advisors who are licensed only in insurance, PPI Valet provides an opportunity to expand their offerings without having to obtain another licence, Nicola says.
“If you are an insurance advisor, a lot of investment options are closed to you because of licensing, especially if you don’t hold a [Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada] licence or an [Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada] licence,” she says. “Now, we are opening that opportunity.”
The partnership creates a hybrid distribution model that incorporates technology into the traditional financial advice channel, says Jim Virtue, president and CEO of PPI Solutions.
“There are a lot of consumers who still want that face-to-face interaction, and will want it for a long time, but that new robo-advisor technology is also a very positive thing for consumers,” Virtue says in an interview with IE. “So, we’re putting the two together.”
A variety of investment options will be available under the new platform, including low-cost ETF portfolios as well as portfolios that Vancouver-based Nicola Wealth Management Ltd., which owns a stake in WealthBar, builds and manages.
PPI Valet, which is expected to launch in October, also incorporates various financial planning tools.
It presents a simplified option for advisors who are looking to expand their array of financial planning services, Virtue says.
“Managing a money practice today can be an awful lot of paperwork,” he says. “This gives advisors the ability to have a very professional, well serviced platform supplied to them.”
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