CEO tells WP why the firm is rebranding and what new opportunities lie in the company's future
Robo-advisor WealthBar is rebranding as CI Direct Investing with parent company CI financial increasing their ownership stake from 75 per cent to 100 per cent.
Tea Nicola, founder and CEO of WealthBar, says that in terms of day to day operations nothing will change for their advisors and their clients. While she admits a bit of melancholy saying goodbye to the brand she built, she accepts that this is the logical next stage for her company and looks forward to the new challenges and opportunities she and her team will be taking on as CI Direct Investing. WealthBar will eventually be combined with Virtual Brokers, CI’s discount broker.
“We're currently not making any major changes aside from the rebrand itself,” Nicola says. “We're simply fully focused on supporting our customers, growing with the current demand we're seeing and launching this rebrand.”
Nicola explained that the rebrand fits in a wider strategy on the part of CI financial, unifying their group of companies under a shared banner. She expects that as a unit under the CI name, each of those companies will be better able to benefit one another. As well, Nicola says she doesn’t think the rebrand will derail the recent momentum WealthBar had picked up during March and April of this year. She’s confident that operational continuity, portfolio results, and her team’s hard work will keep the new client numbers growing.
“WealthBar and Virtual Brokers have posted strong growth and these changes will set the stage for future success,” CI CEO Kurt MacAlpine said in a press release. “We believe that professional advice is as critical as ever and our online platforms are important complements to our traditional advisory business.”
Nicola says that this may be the first such full acquisition and rebrand of a robo-advisor by an “incumbent” playing in the Canadian financial space. She differentiated this from Purpose investment’s recent acquisition of Wealthsimple for Advisors, noting that Purpose is a younger player than CI and this is retail facing, rather than B2B as the acquisition of Wealthsimpe for Advisors was.
While Nicola accepts the name CI Direct Investing strikes a more institutional tone than WealthBar, but says that the tone and position of a brand is more defined by the work done underneath it than simply a name. Nicola says she and her team are committed to continue working as they had, proving to clients new and old that the same disruptive energy that had won them success as WealthBar will be maintained under the CI Direct Investing banner. She maintains that for her clients and the advisors she’s partnered with, the difference between WealthBar and CI Direct Investing will be little more than “different colours.”
“From a material perspective, nothing is going to change,” Nicola says. “It’s going to be the same old advisor platform, the same old client dashboard. It might be called different, look different, but you're going to have the same portfolio, the same advisors the same level of service offering.”
As an entrepreneur, Nicola is saying goodbye to the WealthBar brand with a touch of melancholy. Nevertheless, she says she’s a logical thinker and that this sort of acquisition and rebrand was in the cards as one of the ideal outcomes when she launched the company. Now she gets to engage with a wider team, and the new challenges that will come.
To give the old brand a send-off, Nicola has dug up some of the old ads from the company’s launch. She and her team will take a walk down memory lane before diving back in under their new name. For Nicola, it’s a chance to reflect on how far she’s come.
“I set certain goals in my early 20s, and I’m now just about achieving them,” Nicola says. “On the personal side there's a level of excitement about that along with a twinge of melancholy for the end of an era… So we’ll have a celebration and pay homage to that era, and move on to the next one because we’re pretty excited about it.”