CI Direct Investing Review 2022: Automated Investing in Canada

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This CI Direct Investing review covers everything you need to before deciding. Robo-advisors like CI Direct Investing make investing easier and accessible as they handle everything on your behalf. 

Whether you’re a beginner investor with little investing experience or a seasoned investor that wants to save time and costs, robo-advisors are a great alternative to traditional self-directed investing and mutual funds.

But when it comes to making the most of robo-advisory services in Canada, you want to choose from the best robo-advisors for your needs. Is CI Direct Investing the best option for you? How do you determine if the robo-advisor is perfect for you? What are CI Direct Investing alternatives? 

This CI Direct Investing review answers all these questions and more to help you make an informed decision.


Overview of CI Direct Investing

Below is an overview of CI Direct Investing’s key features as of the time of writing this review.

Portfolio typesETF Portfolios, Impact Portfolios & Private Portfolios
Account typesTFSA, RRSP, RIF, LIRA, LIF, HISA, individual, joint and entity accounts
Minimum investment$1,000
Management fee0.35% – 0.60%
Promotions$150 transfer fee waiver
Management TypeRobo-advisor and Self-directed
CIPF coverageYes
IIROC regulationYes

We’ll take a closer look at what CI Direct Investing offers in subsequent sections of this review.


What is CI Direct Investing?

Formerly known as WealthBar, CI Direct Investing is a British Columbia-based investment platform that provides both managed investing (i.e. robo-advisor) and self-directed investing options.

CI Direct is registered as a Portfolio Manager across all the provinces and territories it operates in across Canada. 

Like other robo advisors in Canada, CI Direct Investing is also regulated by the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC).

However, CI Direct Investing distinguishes itself from the competition with multiple collections of portfolios, supported accounts, HISA and customized professional solutions.


How CI Direct Investing Works

CI Direct Investing works like other robo-advisors in Canada. But unlike other robo-advisors, CI Direct Investing automates the entire investing process for you with the addition of human touch. 

The process starts with the collection of your personal information ranging from your investment goal, and risk tolerance to your time horizon.

CI Direct Investing will then use the information you provided to match you with one of its low-cost and diversified portfolios.

If you’re comfortable with the recommendation, you can proceed to fund your account with the minimum investment balance of $1,000. CI Direct Investing will take it from there while you focus on other aspects of your life.

But if you couldn’t afford to deposit the $1,000 minimum investment balance at once, you can set up a recurring deposit to have the robo-advisor start investing automatically when you have up to a $1,000 balance in your account.


Is CI Direct Investing Safe?

CI Driect is a safe and secure investment platform. As a member of the IIROC and a registered Portfolio Manager in all the jurisdictions it operates in Canada, CI Direct Investing operates in line with the industry’s best practices and regulations.

Assets on the robo-advisor are held by CI Investment Services Inc., National Bank Independent Network or Credential Qtrade Securities Inc. 

Since all these companies are members of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF), your assets on CI Direct Investing are covered by the CIPF for up to $1 million per insured category.

That said, your personal information on CI Direct Investing is protected with advanced encryption and in line with Canada’s Personal Information Protection & Electronic Documents Act.


CI Direct Investing Portfolios

As of the time of writing, CI Direct Investing has three portfolio categories – ETF Portfolios, Impact Portfolios and Private Portfolios.

These portfolios have varying sub-portfolios with different asset allocations as at Dec 31, 2021 as shown below:

ETF Portfolios

PortfolioAsset allocation
Safety ETF Portfolio29% stocks – & 71% bonds
Conservative ETF Portfolio45% stocks – & 55% bonds 
Balanced ETF Portfolio65% stocks & 35% bonds
Growth ETF Portfolio74% stocks & 26% bonds 
Aggressive ETF Portfolio82% stocks & 18% bonds

Impact Portfolios

PortfolioAssets allocation
Conservative Impact Portfolio61% stocks & 39% bonds
Balanced Impact Portfolio69% stocks, 26% bonds & 5% others
Growth Impact Portfolio77% stocks, 13% bonds and 10% others

Private Portfolios

The Private portfolios at CI Direct are hybrid portfolios that combine regular exchange-traded funds (ETFs) with private pooled funds managed by Nicola Wealth Management (NWM).

With this, they’re offer more diversification and exposure to several asset classes that you may not get with traditional ETFs such as private debt and equity, private real estate and so on.

However, their MERs are much higher. For example, the Safety Private Portfolio has an MER of 0.85%, while the Balance Private Portfolio has an MER of 1.55%.

PortfoliosAssets allocation 
Safety Private Portfolio25.0% mortgages
18.0% government bonds
14.0% private real estate
8.0% corporate bonds 
5.0% private mortgage 
4.0% international equities 
4.0% U.S. equities 
4.0% private equity
4.0% private debt 
3.0% fixed income
3.0% Canadian equities
2.5% alternative strategies
2.5% preferred shares 
1.5% high-yield bonds
1.5% real estate
Balanced Private Portfolio28.0% private real estate
10.0% private mortgage
8.0% international equities
8.0% private equity
8.0% private debt 
7.0% Canadian equities
7.0% U.S. equities
6.0% alternative strategies
6.0% fixed income
5.0% preferred shares
4.0% high-yield bonds
3.0% real estate
Aggressive Private Portfolio35.0% US equities
20.0% private real estate
7.0% private mortgages
6.0% private equity
6.0% private debt
5.0% international equities
5.0% Canadian equities
4.0% alternative strategies
4.0% fixed income
3.0% preferred shares
3.0% high yield bonds
2.0% real estate

CI Direct Investing Accounts

CI Direct Investing offers a lot of choice when it comes to the investment accounts you can use. There are multiple registered and non-registered accounts to choose from such as:

  • Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA)
  • Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP, plus spousal RRSP)
  • Retirement Income Fund (RIF, plus spousal RIF)
  • Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP)
  • Locked-In Retirement Account (LIRA, plus Locked-In RRSP)
  • Life Income Fund (LIF)
  • High-interest savings account
  • Individual 
  • Joint 
  • Entity accounts

With these comprehensive investment accounts, you can count on CI Direct Investing for both your short-term and long-term investment needs.

CI Direct Investing High-interest Savings Account

If you’re looking to invest for emergency or short-term goals, the CI Direct Investing high-interest savings account (HISA) got you covered.

Through the CI Direct Investing high-interest savings account, you will earn a competitive interest of 1.25% with no monthly fees.

Like some of the best high-interest savings accounts in Canada, the CI Direct Investing HISA allows you to make unlimited deposits and withdrawals with no minimum balance.

Though you can get higher interest from other online banks like EQ Bank, you may find the being able to save and invest on the same platform attractive.


CI Direct Investing Fees

As a robo-advisor, CI Direct Investing charges a management fee and management expense ratio (MER). The management fees depend on your investment balance as shown below: 

Management feeInvestment balance
0.60%Initial $150,000
0.40%Next $350,000
0.35%Beyond $500,000

On the other hand, the CI Direct Investing MER varies according to its portfolios as you can see below. 

Sub-PortfoliosETF PortfoliosImpact PortfoliosPrivate Investment Portfolios
Conservative Portfolio0.19%N/AN/A
Safety Portfolio0.18%0.55%0.85%
Balanced Portfolio0.17%0.51%1.55%
Growth Portfolio0.18%0.64%N/A
Aggressive Portfolio0.19%N/A1.12%

Looking at the above fees, it’s obvious that CI Direct Investing’s fees are slightly higher than the ones at other robo-advisors in Canada.


Pros and Cons of CI Direct Investing 

Based on the above review of CI Direct Investing, we can deduce the following pros and cons: 

Pros

  • Multiple portfolios and accounts: CI Direct Investing has comprehensive collections of portfolios and investment accounts to meet different needs. 
  • HISA: CI Direct Investing is one of the few robo-advisors in Canada that offers a high-interest savings account. This makes it a one-stop shop for savings and investing. 
  • Personalized financial solutions: Enjoy the flexibility of automated solutions with the help of expert portfolio managers. 
  • Promotion: You can transfer your investment account to the robo advisor for free if you move a minimum of $25,000. Transfer-in fees are covered up to $150.

Cons

  • Minimum investment amount: The robo-advisor requires $1,000 minimum to start investing. This may limit its access compared to robo-advisors with no minimum investment requirement.
  • High management fees and MERs: CI Direct Investing management fees and MERs are higher than the average robo-advisor fees. 

How to Open a CI Direct Investing Account

Opening a CI Direct Investing account takes a few minutes as everything is done online. However, you will need to provide your Social Insurance Number (plus your spouse’s SIN if applicable) to open a CI Direct Investing account.

To get started: 

  • Visit the application page here
  • Provide your personal information (including employment and banking information)
  • Verify your identity
  • Fund your account (via one-time or recurring deposit)

Once you have a minimum balance of $1,000, CI Direct will automatically invest on your behalf. Your only job is to monitor the progress on your dashboard as you focus on other aspects of your life.

CI Direct Trading Review

CI Direct Trading is a self-directed platform that offers low to no trading fees investing in Canada.

Users can buy and sell equities, ETFs and options at one of the best trading commissions in Canada. ETF purchases are completely free but you pay 1cent per share to sell.

Asset TypeBuy Trade FeesSell Trade Fees
Equities1¢/share
(min $1.99/trade; max $7.99/trade)
1¢/share
(min $1.99/trade; max $7.99/trade)
ETFsFree1¢/share
(min $1.99/trade; max $7.99/trade)
Options$7.99 + $1.25/contract$7.99 + $1.25/contract

Other admin fees apply such as a an account transfer out fee of $150, $15/quarter to hold US TFSA, RESP and RRSP, $25/year admin fees for RESP and so on. Learn more about all the fees here.

You pay a slightly lower fees at CI Direct Trading compared to other self-directed platforms like Questrade. For example, Questrade has a minimum trade fees of $4.99 compared to $1.99 at CI Direct.

However, there are no admin fees for holding any registered accounts, even USD accounts, at Questrade. So overall, you’ll save more with Questrade.

Learn more: Questrade Review


CI Direct Investing vs Wealthsimple Invest

Key FeatureCI Direct InvestingWealthsimple Invest
Portfolio typesETF Portfolios, Impact Portfolios & Private PortfoliosClassic ETF Portfolios, SRI Portfolios and Halal  Portfolios
Minimum investment balance$1,000N/A
Management fee0.35% – 0.60%0.4% or 0.5%
ETF MER0.17% – 19%0.13% or 0.16% 
Investment accountsTFSA, RRSP, RIF, LIRA, LIF, HISA, individual, joint and entity accountsTFSA, RESP, RRSP, RRIF, LIF, taxable joint and business accounts
CIPF coverage YesYes

Wealthsimple Invest could be your best CI Direct Investing alternative if you’re looking for a robo-advisor with comprehensive portfolios and accounts without minimum investment requirements.

Both CI Direct Investing and Wealthsimple Invest are regulated by the IIROC and your assets in either robo-advisor are covered for up to $1 million by the CIPF.

Like CI Direct Investing, Wealthsimple Invest also has three portfolio categories with varying sub-portfolios.

However, Wealthsimple Invest has no minimum investment requirement and its management fees and MERs are slightly lower than CI Direct Investing’s fees.

In addition, Wealthsimple Invest covers up to $150 in account transfer fee when you move at least $5,000 from another financial institution. CI Direct only covers your fees if you transfer at least $25,000.

Overall, you get similar services from both CI Direct Investing and Wealthsimple Invest. However, with no minimum investment requirement and slightly lower management fees, Wealthsimple Invest outshines CI Direct Investing.

Learn more about this robo-advisor in this Wealthsimple Invest Review to make an informed decision.


CI Direct Investing vs Questwealth Portfolios

Key FeatureCI Direct InvestingQuestwealth Portfolios
Portfolio typesETF Portfolios, Impact Portfolios & Private PortfoliosClassic ETF Portfolios & SRI Portfolios
Minimum investment balance$1,000$1,000
Management fee0.35% – 0.60%0.20% or 0.25%
ETF MER0.17% – 19%0.17% to 0.22% 
Investment accountsTFSA, RRSP, RIF, LIRA, LIF, HISA, individual, joint and entity accountsTFSA, RESP, RRSP, RIF, LIRA, LIF, taxable joint and corporate accounts
CIPF coverage YesYes

Questwealth Portfolios is another top competitor of CI Direct Investing that distinguishes itself with its comprehensive collections of investment accounts and low fees. 

Investing in a low-fee robo-advisor is one of the best ways of maximizing your investment gains. And Questwealth Portfolios helps you achieve that with its low management fees and MERs.

Like CI Direct Investing, Questwealth also waives $150 transfer fee upon moving your investment account to it.

While both CI Direct Investing and Questwealth have the same minimum investment requirement ($1,000), CI Direct Investing stands out in terms of portfolios options especially the Private Portfolios.

Nevertheless, you could save more on fees with Questwealth because it has the lowest robo-advisor fees in Canada. 

However, I recommend you also read this  Questwealth Portfolios Review to make an informed decision.


Some FAQs on CI Direct Investing Review

Is CI Direct legit?

CI Direct is one of the legit robo-advisors in Canada that is regulated by the IIROC and the laws of the provinces and territories it operates in Canada.

Who owns CI Direct Investing?

CI Direct Investing is owned by the CI Financial Corp, one of the largest investment companies in Canada that have been in existence since 1965.

Is CI Direct Investing perfect for you?

If you’re looking for a robo-advisor with multiple portfolios and accounts including high-interest savings accounts, CI Direct Investing may be your perfect option.
But if you’re concerned about fees and minimum investment requirements, you may want to choose from the CI Direct Investing alternatives discussed above.


Verdict on CI Direct Investing Review

Overall, my CI Direct Investing review is positive. When you put aside its high minimum investment requirement and slightly higher management fees and MERs, you can see how CI Direct Investing performs compared to its peers.

The bottom line is that you can’t make the wrong choice with CI Direct if you’re looking for a hybrid robo-advisor for savings and investing in Canada.

If you need more clarification about this robo advisor, kindly let me know in the comment section.

CI Direct Investing Review
4.4

Summary

CI Direct Investing is a robo-advisor that distinguishes itself from the competition with multiple collections of portfolios, supported accounts, HISA and customized professional solutions.

Simon is a CPA by day and a Personal Finance Blogger by night. With over a decade experience in financial services, he's passionate about personal finance, investing and helping people take control of their financial life.

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