Vancouver-based robo advisor startup WealthBar has been fully acquired by one of Canada’s largest wealth management firms, CI Financial.
This week, CI Financial announced that it had extended its ownership of WealthBar to 100 percent of the company, with plans to rebrand and integrate WealthBar into a new online investment platform.
“[This is] one of the ideal outcomes we had in mind when we launched the company.”
– Tea Nicola, co-founder & CEO, WealthBar
WealthBar was first acquired by CI Financial in January 2019. At the time, WealthBar executives maintained a 25 percent minority stake, which CI Financial has now bought out.
CI Financial plans to rebrand WealthBar to CI Direct Investing and combine it with its own “discount broker” Virtual Brokers. The two will be integrated to become one online investing platform under the CI Direct Investing brand.
Founded in 2014, WealthBar offers a suite of investment services that combine technology with human advisors. WealthBar’s app offers personalized investment services from humans as well as its robo-advisor.
In 2016, the Vancouver startup raised $5.5 million from Nicola Wealth Management. According to Crunchbase, the $5.5 million is the startup’s total funding to date.
Following the 2019 acquisition, WealthBar continued to operate as a stand-alone business. Last year it signed a partnership with Assante Wealth Management and acquired Snap Projections, a financial planning software startup.
Co-founder and CEO of WealthBar Tea Nicola called the full acquisition “one of the ideal outcomes we had in mind when we launched the company.”
“This is about alignment,” she told BetaKit. “It made sense to join the two companies together, sharing the same goals.”
With the full acquisition and rebrand, WealthBar’s leadership team will remain the same. Nicola told BetaKit that herself, co-founder Chris Nicola, David Dyck, head of client services, and Neville Joanes, chief investment officer, “remain committed to bringing our clients great investing products and financial advice.”
“We’re only getting better. This change gives us momentum and additional resources to innovate faster,” Nicola added. “In terms of operations, clients will have the same investing experience they’ve come to trust and expect, plus we’ll be adding even more options on the platform, starting with self-directed investing.”
In terms of Snap Projections, Nicola told BetaKit, WealthBarcontinues to invest in expanding access to Snap Projections. “Now we can do so even more efficiently,” she added. “It’s already part of our own adviser operations and over the last few months, we’ve made it available to advisers within the CI family.”
CI Financial noted that WealthBar has been a “strong contributor” to the firm’s digital transformation. It pointed to WealthBar’s work creating Assante Connect, an online investment service managed by WealthBar exclusively for clients of Assante Wealth Management, as well as PPI Valet, a platform created by the startup that helps insurance advisors manage and grow the investment component of their business.
The firm added that fully acquiring WealthBar and rebranding to CI Direct Investing is part of its “strategic priority” to expand its digital wealth management platform.
“WealthBar and Virtual Brokers have posted strong growth and these changes will set the stage for further success,” said Kurt MacAlpine, CEO of CI Financial. “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.”
Image source WealthBar via blog