Bardya Ziaian, a serial entrepreneur based in Toronto, Ontario, is widely known for his work in fintech, brokerage services, and financial systems. He is the President and CEO of SITTU Group, a think tank and investment company focused on creating opportunities based on emergent economic trends. Bardya is also active in the film industry, producing movies through his company Bardya Pictures.

In 2008, Bardya founded BBS Securities Inc. and Virtual Brokers, both of which served to alter the traditional Canadian equities trading industry by significantly lowering fees. Under his leadership, Virtual Brokers earned a top ranking from The Globe and Mail multiple times. 

Q: What inspired you to start your first companies, BBS Securities and Virtual Brokers?

Bardya Ziaian: I’ve always had a strong desire to be an entrepreneur and start my own companies. I’d worked in banking for a number of years, and I saw an opportunity for innovation within the financial industry. The fees were growing higher and higher, and because of my specialties in fintech, I knew this could be addressed as a business opportunity. 

Q: Of the two, Virtual Brokers especially received a lot of attention for its innovative business practices. Why was that, and what was the most rewarding aspect of leading that company?

Bardya Ziaian: Our model resonated with the public because we reduced trading fees to almost zero, making the markets more accessible and affordable to a broader range of people. It was satisfying to democratize the financial system in that way, helping Canadians plan for their financial future without punishing them with inflated fees. It caused traditional brokerages to react, and I think it had a positive effect on the industry. 

Q: Why did you sell it, along with BBS Securities, to CI Financial in 2017?

Bardya Ziaian: After years of growth and innovation, we reached a point where joining forces with a larger entity like CI Financial made sense for several reasons. First, it allowed us to scale our operations and reach a broader audience more effectively. Second, it provided new resources and expertise, which enhanced our services. On a personal level, there was also the fact that I considered my work building the companies to be largely finished, and I wanted to pursue other projects. Selling them freed me up to turn my attention elsewhere.

Q: What sort of projects are you working on right now?

Bardya Ziaian: I started SITTU Group, a think tank and investment company, where I’ve built a team with a diversity of talents and interests in an attempt to capitalize on emerging opportunities in the economy. One of our interests has been to create a film production studio, which has long been an interest of mine. I’ve written a script for a thriller/comedy titled Super Dicks, which I’m now in the process of making alongside a great team of industry pros. It’s been challenging, but we’re nearly across the finish line. It’s in post-production as we speak. Bardya Pictures, the production company we set up, is involved with developing a few other films, as well.

Q: Do you think you’ll stay in the film industry for the foreseeable future?

Bardya Ziaian: I will say that I’m having a great time learning the trade of filmmaking, and I think we’re doing some excellent work. Also, I haven’t left the financial industry entirely. At the moment, I have a talented team of professionals running SITTU’s day-to-day operations, and I weigh on the important decisions. I always have more than one thing going at the same time, and right now, it is no different. I plan to operate as a filmmaker and a financial professional for the foreseeable future.