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“Robo-advisers” are online operations that build customized portfolios for clients, typically with exchange-traded funds, and then monitor and rebalance them on an ongoing basisGetty Images/iStockphoto

Metroland Media Group Ltd. continues to keep a close eye on digital disruptors as it partners with online portfolio manager Nest Wealth Asset Management.

Metroland - which also holds investments in online sites and - has invested $1.5-million cash in Nest Wealth - one of a handful of Canadian investing websites commonly known as robo-advisers.

In addition to money on the table, the deal also includes an undisclosed amount of advertising and marketing support, one of the largest areas of costs for many robo-advisers.

Metroland, a subsidiary of Torstar Corp which publishes over 100 weekly newspapers in Ontario, will now be a minority shareholder in Nest Wealth, although the exact percentage is undisclosed.

"We are very pleased to be leveraging our print and digital assets to deliver the message of this type of investing," says Ian Oliver, president of Metroland Media. "It is an area that we are not seeing a lot of advertising from currently and it can provide cost savings to the communities we serve."

Mr. Oliver and Randy Cass, founder of Nest Wealth, first met nine months ago to start discussing the possibility of a partnership.

"We were thinking a little more creatively about the people we wanted to partner up with," says Mr. Cass. "We wanted to find someone who had similar intentions - who had a strong focus on helping Canadians save more money and educate consumers about the issues that they face in the financial services industry."

"When we looked at the landscape, Metroland fit the bill for us" adds Mr. Cass. "They have an incredible goodwill with their consumer base, millions of people they reach on an weekly basis and has shown dedication of trying to do things in the best interest of their consumers."

While the financial services industry may find the partnership atypical, the end benefit for Nest Wealth is invaluable.

For starters, Metroland has previous experience building online brands, which Mr. Cass says "was an intriguing factor in looking for a potential partner."

But more importantly, Metroland offers a widespread distribution platform.

With their low fee offering, robo-advisers will have to use much of the capital they raise to pay for the tens to hundreds of millions of marketing dollars needed to gather assets and reach a profitable scale, according a Morningstar equity research report on robo-advisers and wealth management.

"Even after they become profitable, their slim operating margin and low average account size imply that it could take a decade or more to recoup advertising costs," says Michael Wong, an equity analyst with Morningstar, in a report.

Robo-advisers have been slowly entering the Canadian marketplace and offer investors a low-cost solution to investing usually between 0.20 per cent to 0.65 per cent.

Depending on account size, Nest Wealth offers clients online portfolio management anywhere from $20 a month up to $80 a month.

The majority of robo-adviser platforms recommend an investment portfolio that is predominately made up of exchange-traded funds. Investors complete an online risk assessment questionnaire that calculates an appropriate asset allocation based on age, financial goals and risk tolerance.

Nest Wealth is the second Canadian provider to catch the eye of an outside investor. Earlier this year, Power Financial Corp. invested $10 million into Wealthsimple.

"Robo-advisers really need promotional dollars. It's a mass market product and advertising and marketing play an extremely important role," says Mark Yamada, president of PUR Investing Inc. "I'm sure advertising played an important part in the Power Financial and Wealthsimple deal - and we already see a a larrger media presence from Wealthsimple."

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