TORONTO —Robo-adviser Wealthsimple is hoping to lure clients away from traditional financial institutions by launching a savings account with a premium interest rate.
The Smart Savings account, launched in Canada and the U.S. on Thursday, will offer a 1.7 per cent interest rate north of the border. That’s higher than the average offering for similar accounts at Canada’s biggest financial institutions, said Wealthsimple’s chief executive Michael Katchen.
“In this space, this will always be premium to the Big Five banks,” he said in an interview.
It is the first non-investment product for the Toronto-based digital wealth management firm, marking a further step into the banking realm as Canadians increasingly do their financial transactions online.
Wealthsimple savings accounts were offered as a test to a small group of clients in January and were opened up to the rest of its customers in Canada and the U.S. on Thursday with a minimum deposit of $1.
It has partnered with EQ Bank, which is backed by federally regulated Equitable Bank, to offer the accounts in Canada. In turn, deposits in Wealthsimple’s Smart Savings accounts in Canada will be protected by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corp., up to certain limits.
Katchen said 1.7 per cent is not a “teaser rate.” Transfers in and out of Wealthsimple’s savings accounts are free and unlimited, the company adds.
The rate offered by Wealthsimple in the U.S. is lower, at one per cent.
Katchen is optimistic that Wealthsimple’s savings product will attract cash that is sitting in existing savings accounts.
He points to the $1.1 trillion, or 35 per cent of all financial assets in Canada, held in savings, according to data from Investor Economics.
“Canadians need to wake up to the fact that they’re not earning enough on their money. And, we’re trying to make it more and more convenient for people to get access to better rate products,” he said.
The amount of interest paid on savings accounts in Canada vary by institution, product, client type, as well as deposit balance.
According to rate-tracking website Ratehub.ca, high interest savings accounts can earn between 1.05 per cent to 2.25 per cent. For Canada’s five largest institutions, interest rates for high interest savings accounts range from as low as 0.05 per cent to as high as 1.7 per cent with Scotiabank’s Momentum Plus Savings Account, according to RateHub. Some smaller institutions offer higher rates, such as 2.3 per cent on a high interest savings account with EQ Bank. Other financial institutions such as Scotiabank-backed Tangerine or DUCA Credit Union offer rates of 2.5 per cent and 3.15 per cent, respectively, but both are promotional offers which later drop to 1.1 and 1.5 per cent.
Savings accounts are a “natural evolution” for Wealthsimple, Katchen said. Still, getting the federal banking license needed for an institution in Canada to take deposits is not on Wealthsimple’s short-term road map, he said.
Wealthsimple does not have imminent plans to offer a chequing account either, but will consider doing so down the road, Katchen said.
“If this is something that our clients really want… it’s for sure for something we would look to add in the future,” he said.
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