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CI Financial buys Virtual Brokers parent BBS


BBS Securities Inc., parent company of online brokerage Virtual Brokers, has been scooped up by mutual-fund giant CI Financial Corp.

CI Financial has agreed to acquire BBS Securities and associated entities, which, in addition to Virtual Brokers includes Pario Technology Corp., a financial technology company.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2017, subject to regulatory approvals.

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BBS provides a wide range of investment services to retail and institutional investors that include portfolio managers, investment brokerages, institutional investors and robo-advisers; and it was BBS's investment in financial technology – often called fintech – that caught the eye of CI Financial, said Peter Anderson, the firm's chief executive.

"There are a lot of investors who are do-it-yourself investors and they feel they can handle their investments by themselves, but they need great technology to do those things and BBS has exceptional technology in this market," said Mr. Anderson in an interview with The Globe and Mail. "It was this technology that really appealed to us because we feel we can use [it] to support our traditional business throughout CI, including our financial advisers and their clients."

Following the close of the acquisition later this year, Virtual Brokers will continue to operate under its current name and be the first online brokerage firm under the CI umbrella. There are no plans to change any of the current funds offerings or trading fees.

"We are delighted to be joining forces with CI Financial, another company that prides itself on being independent and entrepreneurial," said Bardya Ziaian, founder, CEO and president of BBS Securities in a statement. "Our firm will benefit from the financial strength and stability of CI, which will support investments in technology, product development and service."

Investing in the fintech market has been gaining momentum with many of Canada's wealth managers – including the major banks – but Mr. Anderson said CI Financial is currently not pursuing any additional fintech opportunities at this time.

"While we are not looking at anything today, our client base is changing very quickly and there is always an expectation with us, as well with our competitors, to … deliver technology that will help us be prepared for what our clients' needs are today and what they will be in the future."

Video: Andrew Willis: The problem with banks is they're not ready for the fintech revolution (The Globe and Mail)
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