CI Direct Investing Review

An affordable way for the average Canadian to have their investment portfolios professionally managed.

Lisa Rennie
Updated August 27, 2020



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

CI Direct Investing is among a growing number of robo-advisors available to Canadian investors. Based in Vancouver, CI Direct Investing was actually the first robo-advisor in Canada and offers low-fee pricing structures that make it more affordable for the average Canadian to have their investment portfolios professionally managed. The platform itself is very user friendly and easy to navigate, and the automation aspect makes managing investments incredibly convenient. 

At the same time, there are real people behind the curtains at CI Direct Investing, aside from the algorithms that allow for passive investing. As such, CI Direct Investing offers typical robo-advisor features as well as perks that come with human support. It’s this hybrid approach of combining robo-advisors with real-life support that makes it a unique and effective investing tool. CI Direct Investing’s financial planning tools are wide-ranging, and there are plenty of investment options available. 

Let’s take a closer look at CI Direct Investing to help you decide if this is the right platform for investing.

How Does CI Direct Investing Work?

After opening an account with CI Direct Investing, you’ll be provided with an opportunity to invest a certain amount of money into various investment accounts. A minimum investment of $1,000 is required to open a CI Direct Investing account, which can come from new bank account deposits or a transfer from an existing investment account. As an online robo-advisor, CI Direct Investing offers financial advice and planning tools and will manage your investments using portfolios of low-cost ETFs.

You’ll receive a free financial planning session, whereby a financial advisor will provide you with a detailed overview of your present financial situation and help you plan for your future. You’ll also receive ongoing reviews with your financial advisor to help ensure that your financial plan stays on track. 

The virtual portal allows you to keep tabs on your accounts and ask questions anytime. The virtual dashboard will display your investments’ performance using clear and easy-to-read charts, including any gains or losses and rate of return. Seeing how your account is performing allows you to better gauge your progress towards attaining your financial goals. 

CI Direct Investing’s recommended investment strategy diversifies assets to minimize risk while maximizing returns and boosting cash flow. Even if markets fall from time to time, a diversified portfolio will be in a better position to weather it, while a rise in markets can maximize your returns.  

CI Direct Investing focuses on long-term investment tactics and carefully chooses ETFs that have lower share prices, a successful track record of performance, higher trading volume, and assets that are under management. 

What Types of Accounts Are Available Through CI Direct Investing?

CI Direct Investing offers several different account types to suit your financial needs:

  • RRSP
  • TFSA
  • RESP
  • RDSP
  • Savings accounts
  • Non-registered accounts
  • RRIF
  • LIRA
  • LIF
  • Corporate accounts
  • Group RRSPs 
  • Formal In-Trusts
  • Informal In-Trusts 
  • IPP
  • PPP

Investment Portfolio Options

CI Direct Investing offers the following investment portfolio options:

Safety ETF Portfolio. This is a conservative portfolio that is designed to protect your investment, and is comprised of the following:

  • Equities: 16% 
  • Bonds: 69% bonds
  • Combination of preferred shares and real estate

Conservative ETF Portfolio. This is a portfolio meant for steady growth while hedging against risk, and is comprised of the following:

  • Equities: 29% 
  • Bonds: 56% 
  • Combination of preferred shares and real estate

Balanced ETF Portfolio. This is a portfolio that is designed for moderate growth and may come with a certain level of volatility, and is comprised of the following:

  • Equities: 44% 
  • Bonds: 41% 
  • Combination of preferred shares and real estate

Growth ETF Portfolio. This is a portfolio that is designed for growth with moderate volatility, and is comprised of the following:

  • Equities: 52.5% 
  • Bonds: 32.5% 
  • Combination of preferred shares and real estate

Aggressive ETF Portfolio. This is a portfolio that is designed for maximum growth and higher volatility, and is comprised of the following:

  • Equities: 62.5% 
  • Bonds: 22.5% 
  • Combination of preferred shares and real estate

Important Features to Consider When Choosing To Work With CI Direct Investing

Exclusive investment portfolios. CI Direct Investing makes exclusive investment options accessible for Canadian investors, including private investment portfolios that are typically available only to wealthy investors. 

Professionally managed portfolio. Within minutes, you can invest in thousands of companies across the globe that are all professionally chosen and managed to help you grow your wealth. 

Advice from a Certified Financial Planner. Included in your plan is real advice from a financial expert to help you customize your financial plan according to your needs, which includes a free professional review of your investment plan when you get started.

Automation. The smarter technology used by CI Direct Investing provides you with an innovative way to save and grow your money savings.

Tax-loss harvesting. When a certain event occurs in the market, CI Direct Investing will offer tax-loss harvesting where appropriate. 

Private investment portfolios. Usually only accessible to wealthy investors, private high-end investment classes are available to the average investor through CI Direct Investing, which is a feature that sets this investment platform apart from the others.

Reimbursement for transfers. CI Direct Investing will cover the cost of transferring an investment portfolio valued at over $25,000 from another financial institution.  

Socially responsible investing (SRI). Investors with CI Direct Investing have the opportunity to invest with socially responsible companies that match their ethics, such as those involved in clean energy, human rights, avoidance of animal testing, and so forth. 

Automatic rebalancing. Your asset allocation will be automatically adjusted quarterly if it strays from your initial target by a certain amount, or when contributions or distributions are made.

Insurance. In addition to providing investment management, CI Direct Investing also sells insurance in British Columbia and Ontario.

Investment app. Check on your investment portfolio and get professional advice right from your mobile device.

How Much Does CI Direct Investing Cost?

CI Direct Investing charges a fee for investing, which covers the cost of portfolio management, rebalancing, and trading charges, to name a few. Management fees are deducted directly from your accounts, which can be reviewed in your account’s transaction history. The fees you pay when investing with CI Direct Investing depend on how much you invest with the company:

  • First $150,000: 0.60% annually
  • $150,000 to $500,000: 0.40% annually
  • Above $500,000: 0.35% annually

When investing – whether with CI Direct Investing or another investing platform – you also pay a built-in MER fee to fund companies on top of CI Direct Investing fees. Here is how MER fees are broken down:

ETF Portfolios:

  • Safety – 0.18%
  • Conservative – 0.21%
  • Balanced – 0.24%
  • Growth – 0.24%
  • Aggressive – 0.25%

Private Investment Portfolios:

  • Safety – 1.00% 
  • Balanced – 1.55%
  • Aggressive – 1.40%

How Personalized Are the Investment Portfolios? 

Having your investments customized is easy with CI Direct Investing. You’ll receive access to a personalized investment portfolio where you have the opportunity to select your risk level and diversify your investments across various types of stocks, bonds, ETFs, and real estate to suit your specific comfort level, financial situation, and goals. 

Both the automated algorithms and access to real-life financial advisors will help you tweak your portfolio to respond appropriately to any changes in the market. Further, your accounts will be optimized with tax-efficient funds, tax-loss harvesting, and individualized asset allocation. 

What Perks Does CI Direct Investing Have?

  • Access to private investment portfolios 
  • Personalized diversification
  • Unlimited access to licensed financial advisors
  • Access to financial planning
  • Low-cost ETFs with personalized portfolios
  • No withdrawal fees
  • Socially responsible investing (SRI) options
  • Tax-loss harvesting options 
  • Automated tweaking of your portfolio to maximize profits and minimize risk 
  • Clean interface and great design
  • Excellent customer service

Who is CI Direct Investing Best Suited For?

CI Direct Investing is perfectly suited for those who want to get into the world of investing without a significant amount of capital. It’s also great for investors who like the idea of having their portfolios automatically managed and modified as the market changes. 

Small investors who don’t have the capital needed to get into a private investment portfolio will find CI Direct Investing incredibly useful, as it offers access to such portfolios that are typically reserved for wealthier investors. 

Current Promo Offers

Currently, CI Direct Investing is offering a promo that allows you to get your first $10,000 managed for free for the first year.

Overview of CI Direct Investing

Minimum investment$1,000
Types of accountsRRSP
Savings accounts
Non-registered accounts
Corporate accounts
Group RRSPs 
Formal In-Trusts
Informal In-Trusts
Tax-loss harvestingYes
Private investment portfoliosYes
Socially responsible investing (SRI)Yes
Automatic re-balancingYes
Reimbursement for transfersYes
Professional portfolio managementYes
Fractional sharesYes
AccessibilityBrowser-based and mobile app

Should You Use CI Direct Investing or Work With a Human Advisor?

Having a robo-advisor automate your investments through an algorithm-based financial planning platform with minimal human supervision required is a novel approach to investing. Not only does it make things easy for you, but it’s also a much more cost-effective approach to having a dedicated human financial planner manage your investments for you. But there are also obvious perks to using a human advisor that you won’t get with a robo-advisor.

Let’s go over the perks of using a robo-advisor and a human advisor. 

Advantages of using a robo-advisor:

  • Affordable. The fees associated with using a robo-advisor are far less than what you would pay to use the services of a real-life advisor.
  • Passive. Since robo-advisors use algorithms to manage your investment portfolio, the process is virtually hands-off for you. 
  • Low start-up capital. The barrier of entry to investing with a robo-advisor is very low, as there’s no need to go into the game with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. 
  • No risk of human error. Since there is no need for human intervention, you won’t have to worry about any mistakes in calculations due to human error. 
  • Automation. Robo advisors buy and sell assets automatically on your behalf to make sure that your investment portfolio is automatically re-balanced as necessary.

Advantages of using a human advisor: 

  • Personalized advice. There’s nothing like having a real person to talk to and provide real-time advice on how to manage your investment portfolio. 
  • Identify opportunities. Human advisors can pinpoint opportunities as they arise and advise you on how to profit from them. 

Why Should You Invest?

It can be difficult to save up a substantial amount of money that will sustain you throughout your retirement years without a financial plan in place. Putting money away in a savings account may be beneficial to some degree, but your money will grow a lot faster if you invest it in the right investment vehicles. Making your money work for you through investing can help you develop real wealth over time and help you achieve your financial goals much more quickly and efficiently.  

By choosing the right investments, you can see healthy returns compared to traditional savings strategies. And by diversifying your assets, you can hedge against risk while growing your money. CI Direct Investing can provide you with a vehicle to invest with while allowing their expertise and innovative automated algorithms to optimize your investments and modify them when necessary. 

Final Thoughts

Not only is CI Direct Investing a great option for newbie investors thanks to the affordability and low capital to start, but it’s also great for those who are looking for more advanced investment strategies and access to private investment portfolios that are usually only available to wealthier and more advanced investors. This platform offers a cost-effective and diversified investment option, and the track records of the professionals behind it should make any investor confident in where they are parking their capital.