Value Beyond Investing: How Bento Engine Helps Client-Centric Advisors Deepen Existing Relationships

In our second season, we’re highlighting the people behind the innovative ideas and concepts that continue to level up our industry through elevating the client experience. 

In this episode of Great Aspirations, Mike LaMena speaks to Philipp Hecker,  CEO of Bento Engine, an award-winning FinTech platform that combines technology and wealth management advice.

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Narrator: Welcome to Great Aspirations, Wealthspire Advisors’ podcast series on life, wellness, and financial advice. Each episode shares the experiences of extraordinary people whose stories inspire others to think big, find balance, and explore the possibilities of achieving health, wealth, and happiness. And now here’s your host, the CEO of Wealthspire Advisors, Michael LaMena. 

Michael LaMena: Welcome to Season 2 of Wealthspire Advisors podcast, Great Aspirations. This season, we’re highlighting the people behind the innovative ideas and concepts that continue to level up our industry by elevating the client experience. 

For episode 5 of Season 2, I could not be more excited to have as my guest Phillip Hecker. Phillip is co-founder and CEO of Bento Engine, a fintech platform at the intersection of technology and wealth management advice. Phillip has had an incredible career in financial services. After completing his MBA at Harvard Business School in the early 2000s, Phillip spent five years with the Boston Consulting Group in New York before joining Deutsche Bank in 2007. In 2013, Phillip joined JP Morgan where he held several wealth management leadership positions through 2020, including Global Head of Strategy. He also launched and led JP Morgan’s Wealth Planning and Advice Organization, which includes the Advice Lab, the Philanthropy Center, and the Firm-Wide Goals-Based Advice Teams. Phillip, welcome to Wealthspire’s podcast. I’m very much looking forward to our conversation today. 

Phillip Hecker: Mike, that makes two of us. I look forward to our discussion. Hello there to you and our audience.

ML: So, where to start? Why don’t we start with Bento Engine? Why don’t you give our audience kind of a baseline understanding of what it is? It’s a powerful tool and maybe also a little bit around the background, how you incubated it, maybe the source of the idea that ultimately led you to want to launch Bento. 

PH: So, first off, as you alluded to, Mike, Bento works at the intersection of technology and impactful wealth management advice. We are focused on equipping client-centric advisors with everything they need to advise all of their clients and prospects during moments that matter on their life journeys. You may wonder what are these moments that matter in the US? There are 15 age-based milestones turning 50 and being able to make catch-up contributions, turning 70 and a half, being able to utilize QCDs if one is philanthropically inclined, turning 14 and getting working papers for the kids. There are 15 of these milestones that trigger distinct wealth management risks or opportunities. And we not only alert advisors of these opportunities, we also equip them with compliance pre-approved content to execute with. So, in a nutshell, Mike, Bento is an integrated technology and content solution that operates within the advisors’ CRM to help them advise all of their clients during moments that matter on their life journeys and the why behind Bento, like, in a nutshell, everybody wins if and when advisors do the right thing and lead with advice. Not only does that lead to better client experiences and outcomes, but also the advisor wins via improved loyalty, net promoter score, and share of wallet. That’s Bento in a nutshell. 

ML: I appreciate that overview. So, let’s dig a little bit deeper. Wealthspire Advisors is a financial planning-led organization. We don’t lead with investments. We start with deep, personal understandings of client and family situations. We want to understand hopes, dreams, fears, concerns, the most detailed aspects of what someone wants out of life, and then use all of our technical capability to deliver solutions. One of the things that I found really powerful when I started to learn about Bento Engine is: you’re embracing that vision. Oftentimes, you hear about financial technology as a disruptor, something that’s going to replace the advisor or dislodge the advisor. You’re actually doing the opposite. You’re saying, like, we can be 100% aligned with that vision of deep financial planning, but eliminate the uncertainty or make the advisor more efficient. Maybe elaborate a little bit more on that because it really is elevating the experience by using technology to leverage the time of advisors and eliminate risk from those moments that matter and the identification of them. 

PH: Couldn’t agree more, Mike. We view the future of advice as being deeply human, not digital, but deeply human. We are suggesting that firms like yours use more technology, become more high tech in order to become more high touch. We want to amplify the most important thing, which is the human empathy and ability to connect and serve between warm-blooded humans. So fully concur with the thesis that good advice is still best delivered by warm-blooded humans to warm-blooded humans, but amplified, enhanced by powerful technology such as Bento Engine. And the “why” behind that in our mind is quite simple. When we think about the wealth management industry, we are firm believers that the demand for human advice will only go one direction and that is up. When you think about the wealth creation in this great country, when you think about the complexity that wealth brings, when you think about wealth splintering across generations, when you think about laws and regulations becoming ever more complex, the need for human advice will only continue to grow. At the same time, let’s be very honest, we as an industry struggle on the supply side of human advice. Despite our collective best attempts, the supply of human advice is flat at best. That means that all of us must serve more clients to tackle the needs and opportunities out there. And the only way to do that in efficient and effective ways is by utilizing good, powerful, advisor-centric technologies. That’s the thesis behind Bento. That’s the massive opportunity that we see out there. 

ML: I mean, I love it. The single most valuable commodity any advisor possesses is their time and how they utilize that time to go really deep with clients and understand how to bring technical expertise to bear to help them achieve the things that matter most to them. So, you know, there is this notion of a contradiction that we’re using technology to be more human, but it really is the case if we can create automation to scale what advisors do on things that can be automated in a client-centric way, then we really free up advisor time to go deep with clients. So, I’d like to probe a little bit more into the origins of this. I mean, if I look at your background, you know, you’ve got deep financial services experience in large organizations. I started my career in financial services in very large organizations. What prompted you ultimately to do something this entrepreneurial, to go out and launch, co-found, you know, a startup fintech business and leave kind of the safety of large established roles where you had a ton of credibility? Are there some seeds that began early on in your career that ultimately led you to this? Help me understand the personal side of you launching Bento? 

PH: Yeah, my great, great question. And as so often, it wasn’t one single big aha moment that led to the formation of Bento. Instead, it was a confluence of strategic top-down observations and some bottom-up experiences I was able to make. I saw firsthand how many advisors and firms by now have a value proposition that goes beyond managing money, that includes the notion of comprehensive and holistic advice. By now, many of us talk the talk. However, I also saw top-down how many of us may talk the talk, but not always walk the walk. Yes, many advisors do the right thing and lead with advice and serve their clients on predictable and unpredictable life events or age-based milestones. However, many of them tend to do it manually and thus for their very best clients only. When you look at the middle of a book, the bottom of the book, that is oftentimes woefully underserved and represents in our mind a massive, organic, built-in revenue growth opportunity that we’re trying to help to unlock. So the top-down observation is the industry is shifting. The value propositions are moving towards leading with advice. Let’s help advisors walk the talk more consistently. That’s the top-down perspective. The bottom-up personal experiences are as follows. Mike, in addition to the stuff that you mentioned in the very gracious introduction, my very first job, my very first and formative job was actually outside our industry. 

It was as a brand manager with Procter & Gamble. And there I picked up a couple of techniques, a couple of mindsets that, frankly, have served me well ever since, including the notion of mystery shopping, of going out there and experiencing firsthand what it is like being the client of firms X, Y, and Z. I simply like to eat my peers’ cooking. So for a long time, I’ve been the client of 12 fine private banks, wirehouses, RIAs, and two insurance agents. I am even more fragmented than the typical wealthy person in the U.S. by choice. Pop quiz question for you. Play with me here, Mike. How many of the 12, when I look at their value propositions or listen to their elevator pitches, have some kind of promise of comprehensive holistic advice as part of their value proposition? 

ML: I’m sure all 12 are promising it.

PH: All 12, you’re spot on by now, even the insurance agents insist on doing full sum financial plans with me. Next pop quiz question. When they invite me for a round of golf, the U.S. Open or a fancy state dinner, how many of them assure me that they really care about me and my family?

ML: 12 out of 12. 

PH: Bingo. Next one. I’m dating myself. When I recently turned 50, how many of them not only called me to say, hey, congrats, but also to give me advice on how to make catch up contributions in my retirement accounts so that I increase my tax advantage savings and investments rate?

ML: My guess is less than 12.

PH: 8 called to wish happy birthday. And how about them jets? 0 gave me the relevant wealth management advice. Last pop quiz question for now. When our twins turned 14, how many of my advisors reached out to me and my wife with guidance on how to get them working papers so that they can legally start earning income and then put that legally earned income into custodial IRA accounts under the kid’s name? So that the kids get to enjoy the power of tax deferred compounding for decades to come? 

ML: Probably a very small number. 

PH: Correct yet again, you get the joke. Many of us talk the talk. Few of us walk the walk consistently. That experience, I’m certain I’m not alone. And that was one of the triggers behind the formation of Bento Engine. Let’s use technology to put advisors in the position to lead with the relevant wealth management advice during moments that matter for every client in the book, even if they’re a small client because they’re highly fragmented in their assets like I am. 

ML: And I guess what really resonates with me is that, you know, this season for us is all about people that are behind the innovative ideas to level up our industry and elevate the client experience. And I don’t doubt that all 12 of those individuals and organizations aspire to provide holistic advice and comprehensive financial planning. You know, the issue is, and I think you’ve touched on this, the aspiration sometimes breaks down because of capacity. I don’t doubt that most of those organizations had the knowledge that when you turn 50, you’re eligible for catch up contributions or, you know, when your kids turn 14, they’re eligible to work in working papers and the educational opportunity. The question is, can you put in the systems and the processes to make it error proof to not leave it to chance as to whether the advisor remembers to deliver that but make it a default? And I think the other thing you guys have really done well at Bento Engine is, is not only identify but make it very easy for advisors to deliver the content in a digestible way. And you and I have talked a little bit about this when we’ve intersected at various events. It’s also kind of finding ways to automate the identification of these time-based issues, have the necessary content available, but also be able to meet the client where the client is and that client-centric view that you’ve had historically carries forward into it so that it’s a little bit about timing, but it’s also about the content, the communication, the collateral, but also modes of communication to kind of meet people where they are. Maybe elaborate on how you brought that perspective to, you know, the technology and the delivery of Bento Engine’s value proposition. 

PH: Yeah, that’s a really good one, Mike. There’s a lot of talk out there about the personalization of advice. Let’s double-click on that. What does that really mean, personalization? What are the dimensions along which you have to be personalized to get the optimal impact with receiving and either client or prospect? And there our thoughts are as follows. In a nutshell, we want to make sure that the advisor addresses the right topics with the right clients or prospects at the right point in time communicating in the right way. The topics we discussed, 15 age-based milestones, life events such as getting married, divorced, having a child, moving to Florida, buying a business or selling a home, easily two dozen life events that not always but oftentimes happen on the life journeys of your clients. And when they do, they represent major opportunities to lead with advice and capture money in motion. And we also talked a little bit, I think, about children and wealth and the opportunity for advisors to connect with the next gen of the client family in an early and constructive way. So those are the right topics. To the right clients or prospects, as I alluded to in the CRM, remind the data and our algorithms, identify for the advisor which kind of prospect. 

ML: Engines integrating with CRM. And you guys are agnostic. It could be multiple CRM systems, right? 

PH: Yes, dynamic, Salesforce, Redtail, Wealthbox, Practify, Accelerate, HubSpot, Custom CRMs. There’s so many great ones out there. Bento embeds in the CRM. So Bento is not seeking to be yet another lock-in or app on the workstation or system to learn. Everybody has frankly too many already. What we do is deeply embed in the CRM and we make that work even harder for the advisor and their clients. 

ML: Harder and smarter, right? 

PH: Because there’s an intelligence element to it. Smarter. Now, we talked about the right topics for the right clients or prospects. Let’s talk about the dimensions of timing and the mode of communication. Timing really matters. The best advice delivered at the wrong point in time tends to fall flat. Advice ideally is proactive even before the client reaches a certain age milestone. Let’s make them aware of the opportunities that will start presenting themselves at that milestone. How proactive to be, how many months before the client reaches a milestone to reach out, let’s be thoughtful on that. Two months might be sufficient before the kids turn 14 to discuss getting working papers and having them legally work income. Perfectly sufficient. I hope you concur the big question of when to best start taking social security benefits. Two months would not be sufficient. That perhaps better two years to think through all the options, do the math properly, put bridge financing, whatever else might be needed in place to come to the optimal result. How proactive to be a frontier for us as an industry where we can dial in and make things more personal and thus increase our chances of breaking through and getting to the all important client action. When it comes to the mode of communication, that likewise matters. Roughly 60% of Americans, research shows, are visual learners. They actually enjoy and benefit from looking at a wealth structure PowerPoint or PDF page. Great, let’s use that. In your quarterly update meeting on the Zoom, run wealth structure pages by the visual learners so that they literally see you. Some clients hate looking at PowerPoint pages. They want to have a conversation. In that case, let’s equip the advisor with wealth structure talking points so that they can have an effective conversation on the topic at hand so that the client literally hears them. Another part of our universe is literally constantly on the go. Perhaps they have ADHD like me. They prefer a crisp email on the topic at hand to get going. For every topic, we equip the advisor in the CRM with multiple modes of communication so that the advisor can pick the best mode of communication on a client or prospect specific basis. Again, all of that with a goal of increasing the chances of being heard or seen and getting to the all-important client actions, which is what our business is about at the end of the day. 

ML: What I love about that is you’re making it easy by giving people multiple modes of communication content. You’re also in some ways, through technology and this optionality, coaching advisors, that if they truly want to be client-centric, you actually have to lean into understanding what type of learner your client is. How do they best digest information, even pause and ask the question, how can I most effectively relay information? Again, what strikes me is we’re using technology and in a controlled process to actually enable advisors to be more human, more customized, and more personal in their approach to the holistic planning that we aspire to always deliver to our clients. Fair? 

PH: Very, very fair. Sometimes, we get asked by our users, well, to be honest, I know the communication preference and learning style of some of my clients, but not all of them. How do I find out? There we have two suggestions. Number one, as you alluded to, simply asked, nothing wrong with that, quite the opposite. It shows your client-centric mindset, hey, how do you prefer to receive guidance information from me on topics such as ABC? And clients will tell you. Or option two, be very sensitive to cues they might be sending you throughout your dialogue. If they react to certain things by literally saying, I hear you, that is a cue that they might be an audio learner. If they in a quarterly meeting react to something by saying, I see what you mean, that again is a cue that they might be a visual learner. So yes, we as an industry can and should up our level of client understanding. On those dimensions, because they drive success. That’s great. 

ML: Thank you for the insight on that. Let’s shift gears. So, Bento Engine, you guys have been rightly recognized for your innovation and the value you’re creating, whether it’s being nominated and winning multiple awards, Luminaries, Wealthies. It seems there’s not an industry award list where Bento Engine’s not included in some capacity. So, with that level of success, you’re certainly connected to some of the overall trends. And we’ve talked about a number of those, the overall overarching trend of the desire for comprehensive advice, right? The bull market in human delivered advice. The independent RA market being a destination where advisors have the ability to be fiduciaries, lean into that financial planning-led. We’re not a distribution outlet for products. It’s not a product-centric mode. It’s a people centric, individual centric mode. What other trends are you seeing in the RA space and how are you utilizing the talent and the technology at Bento Engine to tap into those trends to add more value? 

PH: First off, thank you for the flowers. And let me return the flowers by appreciating the strong partnerships from client-centric firms like you. If and when firms out there in the wild, in the front-line trenches, partner with young, innovative companies, everybody wins. I would go one step further. Innovation in our industry, true innovation in our industry wouldn’t be possible without firms like yours taking a risk and trying new things pushing the envelope. A lot of our innovations come from dialogue with thoughtful users, it’s sort of client firm co-creation in my mind and that’s the way it should be. So all the awards that you alluded to were merely the logo, they truly go to the ecosystem at large. When it comes to the RIA space, boy, what an interesting, dynamic, fast-growing part of our industry for a variety of good reasons. Choice is an important concept here. Choice for clients and choices for advisors on what kind of business model, with what kind of culture, with what kind of value proposition, and with what kind of enabling tech stack they want to operate in. And I think in this day and age, it’s become increasingly important for client-centric advisors to be the masters of their own fate when it comes to their tech stack. I see many times big firms having a value proposition that then the individual advisors might have a harder time bringing to bear because they can’t quite optimize their own practice to meet their interpretation and strong suits when it comes to delivering the value proposition. So in a nutshell, we’re here to continue to support the large and fast-growing RA space. We view that as an increasingly important part of our industry going forward. As I do the two in the beginning, we’re bullish on human advice and we’re bullish on the true fiduciary RA interpretation and delivery of that advice. 

ML: That’s great. And look, there’s a tremendous amount of alignment in the way that we think about advisors. There’s a foundation of consistency, quality, the fundamental nature of fiduciary financial planning-led that always needs to be there. But in an environment where ultimately that’s delivered by an individual advisor, the consistency in all those components actually amplifies the ability for that individual advisor to really show up as their unique, valuable self in their engagement with clients. But if you don’t have that consistency, that foundational rock solid infrastructure from a technology standpoint, I think it starts to distract advisors from their highest and best uses, which is that personal engagement. So we’re both very fortunate to be in an industry that has a huge positive impact on the clients that our advisors and talented professionals are able to work with every day and finding ways to utilize technology and talent to amplify that experience is obviously very rewarding. Your team has been very successful with that. What’s next for you and the Bento Engine team? What do you see on the horizon? I know you’ve continued to expand the number of time-based planning opportunities, life-oriented planning opportunities. I know you’ve legged into how do you really look at that next gen and start to bring children as they’re coming to age into the planning process? What’s next on the horizon for Bento Engine? 

PH: Two things to share here, Mike. Number one, as you allude to defining the universe of your client, who is in scope, who do you truly care about, who do you truly serve as an advisor is important to us. And there, as you allude to, we see many opportunities for firms and advisors to connect with G2 and 3 in earlier and more constructive ways for everybody’s benefit. So children, wealth, financial literacy, helping families educate their young offspring starting at the tender age of 4 on these important topics will benefit everybody involved. And then the second concept, and I don’t want this to derail our conversation today, it could be a separate podcast, is AI as in artificial intelligence that is certainly here to stay and beginning to impact our industry in even more fundamental ways going forward. We as Bento Engine continue to have a philosophy of let’s solve big problems and opportunities in the least sexy way, in the most robust way possible. We will never turn into one of those shops that have fancy technology in search of a problem. We’re the other way around. We understand the problems and opportunities, and then we marshal the most robust technology, the most reliable and transparent and controllable technology to meet those opportunities. Having said that, AI is beginning to and will continue to impact our space in meaningful ways, weaving robust, controllable, repeatable AI capabilities increasingly into our offering is part of our future. 

ML: I’ll definitely take a rain check on the AI conversation. I’m sure that we could fill an entire episode with that. Maybe I’ll bring one of my tech colleagues to the table and the three of us can dig into that. I’d like to finish up with two things. One, I want to give you an opportunity to share with our audience how advisors that maybe aren’t as familiar with Bento Engine, how can they engage you? How can they learn more? Where do they go? Obviously, we’re a client, it’s been hugely impactful with our advisors and end clients. I want to give you that opportunity. Also, I don’t think we’ve covered Bento Engine. It’s such a creative name. Where did that come from? I’m sure there’s some history and unique element of the genesis of that name. I’d love to hear that before we finish up. 

PH: Oh, that’s awesome. Thank you for those. Let’s take them in turn. Number one, should you wish to learn more about Bento Engine? Simply Google us at You can check out a 90-second explainer video right on the homepage. Or learn more about our solutions in the About Us and Solution tabs. Again, that’s We’re quite active on Twitter now, X, and the good old LinkedIn. Now, the name, Mike, what explanation do you want? The marketing or the real explanation? 

ML: Whatever you will to share. Yeah, both will be great. 

PH: Both will be great. Okay, here’s the marketing one. Bento, clearly from the Japanese Bento box, snack-sized in the moment, good for you, healthy food, Engine expresses the tech element of our offering. That is the marketing version. The real story is when we researched Bento, when we wrote the business case, we had three flavors, three business cases. One of my co-founders is a recovering investment banker as such. He couldn’t help himself, but name the three business cases, Apple, Bento, and Charlie. ABC, you get it. When Bento won out, we said, well, now we need to look for a proper name. We couldn’t come up with anything better. We slept on Engine for the tech side of things. The domain name was free, so we went with Bento Engine. Now, people can learn more at 

ML: I love it. Thanks for sharing that insight into that naming. Philip, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Your passion for financial planning and comprehensive guidance that is being amplified and enabled through technology is really compelling, exciting. Thank you for the work you’re doing and for your partnership. Hopefully, we’ll have an opportunity to dig deeper on the AI front in the near future, but thank you for joining the podcast. It was an absolute pleasure. 

PH: Mike, thank you. Thank you all for the partnership. Thank you for continuing to lead with advice. 

Narrator: Thanks for listening to this episode of Great Aspirations, presented by Wealthspire Advisors, a registered investment advisor and subsidiary company of NFP Corp. If you have feedback, including suggestions for future topics and guests, contact us at 


Wealthspire Advisors (“Wealthspire”) has partnered with Bento Engine (“Bento”), an integrated content and technology solution, to generate preapproved and proactive client-specific content. One of Wealthspire’s employees is an investor in Bento and serves on its Advisory Council, but Wealthspire and Bento are not affiliated companies. Neither Wealthspire nor Bento received direct or indirect compensation from the other party for their involvement in the production of this podcast episode.

Wealthspire Advisors LLC (“Wealthspire”) is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary company of NFP Corp. This presentation is for general information and educational purposes only. It should not be construed as personalized investment, legal, tax, or accounting advice, or a guarantee that you will experience a certain level of results if Wealthspire is engaged, or continues to be engaged, to provide services. While the information is considered to be reliable, Wealthspire cannot guarantee its accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose, and makes no warranties with regard its use. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and it should not be assumed that any investment, investment strategy, or non-investment related or planning services will be profitable, be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful. A copy of Wealthspire’s current written disclosure Brochure discussing our services and fees is available upon request or at

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