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How Being High-Tech Leads To Being High-Touch With Customers


Philipp Hecker

Philipp Hecker is the Co-founder and CEO of Bento Engine, a B2B Fintech SaaS company at the intersection of technology and effective wealth management advice. He is passionate about wealth management advice that goes beyond investing and actually improves the lives of his clients. Before founding Bento Engine, Philipp spent 15 years on Wall Street at Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan. He is also a Procter and Gamble-trained brand manager.



Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Philipp Hecker talks about Bento Engine and how they help people

  • The catalyst that made Philipp get into the wealth management industry

  • How Bento Engine won their first client

  • Bento’s success stories helping their clients win

  • The importance of focusing on existing customers

  • Philipp explains how AI impacts customer experience


In this episode…


There are universal moments and experiences that require financial advice. Everything from marriage to retirement to death calls for robust financial counseling. So where can you get the wealth management support you deserve to navigate such events?


Philipp Hecker says that when major money-in-motion events occur, as a client-centric financial advisor, you want to be there and advise your clients through all of the implications. He noticed that it is what the advisors do for their main clients and drove him launch Bento. His idea behind Bento is to use technology to automate and scale the great work that advisors are doing to bring the magic to the woefully underserved.


In this episode of The Customer Wins, Richard Walker sits down with Philipp Hecker, Co-founder and CEO of Bento Engine, to discuss the importance of financial advice. Philipp talks about Bento Engine and how it helps people, the catalyst that made him get into the wealth management industry, how Bento won its first customer, and how AI impacts the customer experience.


Resources mentioned in this episode:


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Episode Transcript:


Intro 0:02

Welcome to The Customer Wins podcast where business leaders discuss their secrets and techniques for helping their customers succeed and in turn grow their business.


Richard Walker 0:16

Hi, I'm Rich Walker, the host of The Customer Wins where I talk to business leaders about how they help their customers win and how their focus on customer experience leads to growth. Our past guests have included Adrian Johnstone of Practifi. Today I'm speaking with Philipp Hecker of Bento Engine and today's episode is brought to you by Quik! the leader in enterprise forms automation. If your sales process depends on filling out forms, then you should be using Quik! we make filling out forms the easiest part of your transaction visit quikforms.com to get started. Before introducing today's guests, I want to give a big thank you to Paige Johnson of Practifi, who introduced me to Philipp and included both of us on a webinar. Go check out Practifi's website at practifi.com and see how the combination of Practifi, Bento Engine and Quik! enable advisors to serve their clients better. Now to introduce Philipp. Philipp is passionate about wealth management advice that goes beyond investing. Bento Engine is a new FinTech company that empowers client-centric financial advisors to serve all of their clients and prospects with impactful advice. Prior to founding Bento Engine, Philipp spent 15 years on Wall Street at Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan. Philipp is also a Procter and Gamble-trained brand manager. So thinking about businesses in a very client-centric way was beaten into him P&G style. Philipp is also recovering Boston Consulting Group consultant where he picked up a strategic tool or to. Philipp I was an Arthur Andersen business consultant so I can easily relate to your recovery. Welcome to The Customer Wins, Philipp.


Philipp Hecker 1:51

Rich, great to see you again. Thanks for having me. And hello there out on the lines. I look forward to this conversation.


Richard Walker 1:58

Me too. Now, if you haven't heard this podcast before, I talk with business leaders about what they're doing to help their customers win, how they build and deliver a great customer experience and the challenges they've had in growing their own company. So Philipp, I want to understand your business a little better. How does your company help people?


Philipp Hecker 2:17

Well, people let's first off define that can be end investors, and financial advisors. We serve both. Bento is a b2b software as a service technology and content solution that empowers client-centric advisors to proactively advise all of their clients and prospects during moments that matter in the lives of the clients and prospects. And by virtue of doing that, we not only positively impact the end client experience and client outcomes. We also help financial advisors to grow their business in organic ways via client deepening, and new prospect conversion. I'm sure we'll bring it to life as we go along.


Richard Walker 3:07

So wait a second, you said events that matter to people. I mean, obviously, marriage and death and retirement matter what are all these events you're talking about?


Philipp Hecker 3:17

Rich, there is a plethora of moments that matter in the lives of clients and prospects because these moments, either by law, or by circumstance, represent major needs for financial advice, and major money-in-motion type of events. Some of them you alluded to it are life events, getting married, divorced, having a child buying a business, selling a home moving to Florida, parents getting sick, kids going off to college, I could go on and on. There's roughly two dozen life events that oftentimes happen on the journeys of your clients and prospects. And when they do as a client-centric adviser, you want to be there and advise your clients on the wealth management implications that many of them provide. There's oftentimes meaningful, financial upside opportunity, or downside risk that wants to be managed. Uncle Sam, in addition to these life events, also gives us 15, regulatory birthdays, turning 50 and being able to make cash contribution, turning 70 and a half and being able to make UCDs, turning 62 and facing the important question, do I start taking Social Security benefits now? Or am I better off waiting until later? I could go on and on. There's 15 of these regulatory birthdates that matter in the lives of your clients and prospects. And the wonderful news here is those moments that matter are highly predictable. You know the age of your clients and prospects. You know the US tax code let's put the two together and proactively advise all of our clients and prospects.


Richard Walker 5:05

That's exactly I was thinking, you must be taking a very proactive approach to finding these events and making advisors aware of them. So, I want to ask you, what made you even start this and now I'm imagining you had an advisor that skipped out on some of your life events or something, what happened? What made you want to do this?


Philipp Hecker 5:22

Well, Rich, you are correct, as many a good entrepreneur, a set of personal experience, served as a catalyst and helped trigger the idea for Bento. Let me perhaps share one of the catalysts. One of the founding reasons behind Bento and that is a set of personal experiences, pretty much along the lines of what you alluded to. So given my Procter and Gamble and BCG background, by the way, five wonderful years in New York, I really learned a thing or two. Given that background, as will not surprise you to hear that I love to mystery Shop our industry, I like to experience firsthand what is it like being a client of firms X, Y, and Z. So for a long time, I've had 12 fine, private banks, firehouses, IRAs, and two insurance agents serve me and my family. I am even more fragmented than your typical wealthy person in the US by choice, pop quiz question for you Rich. When I look at the marketing materials of those 12 providers, when I listened to the elevator pitches, how many of them have some kind of promise of comprehensive holistic advice?


Richard Walker 6:42

All of them I'm bet.


Philipp Hecker 6:44

12 out of 12, you're spot on. By now even the insurance folks insist on doing full some financial plans with me. Next pop quiz question. When they invite me to the US Open a round of golf or fancy steak dinner, how many of them are showing me that they really care about me and my family?


Richard Walker 7:05

I'm gonna say all of them.


Philipp Hecker 7:09

12 out of 12 Correct yet again. Next question.


Richard Walker 7:11

I wasn't prepared for these questions. I'm glad.


Philipp Hecker 7:15

Good record so far. Next question. I'm dating myself. When I recently turned 50. How many of them reached out to me with guidance on making catch-up contributions in my retirement accounts, so that I increase my tax-advantaged savings and investing rate and everything has been equal, increase my chances of a successful retirement? How many did that?


Richard Walker 7:39

Man, I'm gonna hope at least one college you.


Philipp Hecker 7:42

Rich, you are an experienced operator, you've been in our industry for a long time. So I unfortunately understand the negative mindset that you take to answering this question. The sad truth is zero. Last pop quiz question for now, when our twins recently turned 14, how many of the 12 advisors reached out with guidance on how to get them working papers, which is something you need up here in Connecticut, to legally start earning income, and then how to 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. How many did that for us?


Richard Walker 8:27

I don't have a 14-year-old yet. But I think one of the main reasons I've done some of the things you're talking about for my own kids is because I was a financial advisor. And I have that mindset of these are the things I would do to build wealth. But my advisor didn't call me so I'm gonna go with none of them called you.


Philipp Hecker 8:43

Rich, you're correct. Long story short, I experienced firsthand a big gap, a big gap Delta, between the talk and the walk. Why is that? Because I'm so fragmented. I'm a small fish at the bottom of the books of those advisors. Many of them are great people. I don't want this to be misperceived as advisor bashing, far from it. They are great, busy people. I know that at least some of them do this work, but they tend to do it for their best clients only. So the idea behind Bento is using technology to automate and scale the great work that great advisors are doing for their greatest clients and via technology, bringing that magic to the middle and the bottom of the book, which are oftentimes woefully underserved. I know I am not alone in my experiences.


Richard Walker 9:40

Yeah. Well, so let's kind of shift gears on this a little bit. You were in corporate, you had these different jobs, et cetera. And you were not giving this kind of input, proactive advice and guidance, etc. It's one thing to recognize the problem. It's a whole another thing to build a business on a product so how did you know you had the right product? Like who is your first customer? Why did they choose you?


Philipp Hecker 10:01

Rich as you can imagine, as you know firsthand quite a journey to make that jump from corporate settings, which I thoroughly enjoyed to entrepreneurial startup land. I know who I am, I know what I can do, I know what I can do. It was crystal clear to me that I'm not a solopreneur. But I wanted to build a team around me with complementary skill sets. So frankly, step number one is build a team, find the right resources to do it with ever. From our very early days, we are by design a multifunctional team of not only deep wealth management experts, but also highly successful serial entrepreneurs, and cutting-edge technologists. I felt that the trifecta between wealth management expertise, entrepreneurial expertise and cutting-edge CRM integration API engineering expertise was needed for Bento to succeed. So even before we approached our first clients, and I'll get to that in a second, getting the team in place, was the single biggest hurdle, the single biggest ingredient to success. Now to answer your question around initial customers, we very quickly decided to not build the Bento technology and content in isolation and a dark chamber. We were not in stealth mode. But the opposite. We all ways wanted to do it together with a handful of innovation-friendly risk-taking RAAs from the frontlines that we wanted to partner with. So I had 67 discussions to secure six guinea pig pilot partners, that volunteered to be our partners in building the technology and the content. And when I had a 10% or so conversion rate on the idea, we had nothing but a fancy deck and some great ideas. That was a positive signal and encouraging signal to continue the journey. So we build Bento, together with six awesome pilot partners, ranging from single practitioners, to boutique ensemble type of firms, to a very large nationwide, $20 billion-plus well-known brand name. And in hindsight, in particular, we are extremely grateful for those partners for taking a risk. And giving a idea, an honest try and partnering with startup FinTech such as us, without the willingness of the pilot partners to lean in and give new ideas and concept of try innovation would not happen in our great industry.


Richard Walker 12:57

Man, you said so many good things there. And this is evidence of somebody who's worked for a long time, not fresh out of college, 20 year old but somebody's had a lot of experience maturity starting a business. You understood the team is first, which so many people forget about and the book Good to Great, get the right people on the bus in the right seats, right? Working collaboratively don't do the stealth approach. I love that man. You said so many good things there. So what is one of your favorite customer success stories? How did you help transform a customer? What was their outcome when you help them win?


Philipp Hecker 13:30

I'll share with some rah, rah success stories. There's many of them. And of course, they matter. I'll take the liberty of discussing a pinpoint, quote, failure as well, that then turned into something positive, because I think it's important to be fair and balanced and point to the opportunities for learning from failure. So on the straight-up success front, when the technology worked as promised, as a reminder, via API's, we connect into the CRM systems broadly used across the industry, including Salesforce Practifi, Redtail, Wealthbox and others, to mine the existing book of business for upcoming advisor opportunities. There's so much good data in the CRM that is oftentimes underused, under-leveraged, we run algorithms over those data sets to identify upcoming advice, opportunities, and then we proactively alert the advisor in her CRM, off those upcoming advice opportunities. When we first saw the technology working, meaning identifying meaningful moments that matter in the lives of clients and prospects, and then alerting the advisor in appropriate ways. That was a hallelujah moment for us on our end. When we then observe the adviser reading the advice, pulling down the appropriate information, sharing that information with her client and the client responding. Oh, wow, thank you so much for that proactive guidance on making catch-up contributions. Yes, I will do that when I turn 50 to maximize my after tax results, that creating loyalty, goodwill, that creating positive client engagement that is felt by the advisor and her farm was the second hallelujah moment. In case you don't want to just believe my word, take the word of advisors themselves. If we have a free moment, hop onto YouTube search Bento Engine, there, you'll find some video testimonials from advisors from the horse's mouth talking about how leading with advice, facilitated by Bento Engine, improve their client outcomes and lead to net new asset flows, that otherwise they wouldn't have gathered. So that's the positive experience. That's the positive business impact case. I'll share a story of let's call it joint learning as we walked along, and that is along the following lines. After we launched Bento with those advice, opportunities, sought for firm leadership came to us and said, hey, Bento team, this works great as advertised, yada, yada. However, let me be honest, some of our advisors are very comfortable on those topics, and lean into those topics, because they know it matters and they know how to talk about it. Other advisors, however, are younger, they come more from a transactional business point of view, they honestly may not always act on the alerts, not because it's not in the best interest of the client, because they themselves aren't quite comfortable leaning into those topics. UCDs these can be hard, working papers differ state from state how they work.


Richard Walker 16:53

Can I tell you, I became a financial advisor at age 26. And my partner's clients were all retirees with kids, I did not know how to talk to them. So if I had received one of those alerts, I'd feel the same way. Like what am I supposed to do?


Philipp Hecker 17:09

There you go Rich. And that's a very natural reaction, which we understand that visors have to cover so many things, they have to think in so many dimensions, laws and regulations change all the time. So long story short, that feedback led to us always adding a internal use-only set of advisor FAQs, literally FAQ style 10 pages or so. Think of it as a cliff notes, think of it as feed for the back pocket of the advisor to make sure that they are appropriately educated and facile on the topics at hand, to feel comfortable and be effective in reaching out and advising their clients. So long story short, although we never designed it that way from the get-go, by the virtue of mutual learning and listening to playing feedback, Bento by now has a meaningful learning and development dimension to it a meaningful way of training the advisor and raising everybody's boat.


Richard Walker 18:13

That is awesome. And I am a student of Guerilla Marketing back when I 18, it's one of the books I read. And I think what you're doing is helping people build their revenue by focusing on their existing customers better, like Guerilla Marketing says, put 90% of your effort into your existing customers. When you think about growing your business, there's really two ways to do it, either new customers or sell something to existing customers, right? Well, what's easier, talking to existing customers is easier. And it sounds like you're serving that benefit really well.


Philipp Hecker 18:47

Couldn't agree more, couldn't agree more, some of the best marketing advisors can do is serve the existing clients really, really well. They'll pay it back in terms of loyalty, net promoter score, they'll refer you out more often to their buddies and friends. And very importantly, share of wallet, those all meaningfully go up if and when advisors do the right thing, and serve their clients comprehensively. So Rich in a way, yes, we're trying to make people more high tech, so that they can be more high touch, meaning giving powerful technology to the adviser so that they can scale their most precious asset, which is the human touch and engagement with the client.


Richard Walker 19:31

Yeah, that's awesome. I love your passion for really helping people get better advice and do more with their money, etc. But at the end of the day, you're also helping your customer advisors grow their business, which is what we're all about too. So I have to ask you, now that you have this tool out there for advisors, have you found the advisor that uses your tool to be your core advisor now or are you still have 12 guys out there who aren't asking the right questions?


Philipp Hecker 19:59

The honest truth, in a nutshell, is it's a mixed picture will not surprise you to hear. And it will probably always be a mixed picture for a variety of reasons.


Richard Walker 20:08

Yeah, I mean, me, if I want to work with a vendor, healthcare company, whatever, and they make my employees or myself fill out paper forms, I just say no, you have to be on my system. Okay, look, I want to bring up a totally different topic in a way, I'm really keen on artificial intelligence. I've been studying it for months and months and months and playing with it. And I'm seeing some of the future with it. So from your perspective, I want to know, with artificial intelligence, how do you see it changing or impacting customer experience, either for your customers, your product, or just the industry in general? Where do you see this going?


Philipp Hecker 20:44

Oh, Rich, great question. And so many ways of answering it. So many thoughts coming to my mind, let me share a couple in no particular order. Number one, no doubt that the use cases of AI in its many manifestations are plentiful today, already both on the client side and the adviser side. And that will only go one direction, which is up meaning the distribution, the adoption of AI, NLP learning, other type of technologies and approaches will only increase and the use cases can be plentiful and quite exciting. For example, unleashing ChatGPT-type technologies to replace today's Google search, make a Google search concept way richer, way better, way more intuitive could be one exciting use case primarily on the client, potentially also on the adviser side. Again, ChatGPT as one flavor, you know of the day, think about the opportunities when it comes to the firm's knowledge management systems moving away from flat, barely accessible graveyards of data to much more engaging interactive modes of tapping into firm knowledge can get super, super exciting. A word or two words of caution, though, number one, I think at times the rhetoric and frankly, the marketing around AI capabilities runs danger of getting ahead of the skis. Ie there is a lot of expectations being raised, that the actual day in day out, delivery does not always support. And that is not beneficial for everybody. So maybe if I may, a bit of a challenge to FinTechs, such as us, and the industry at large to moderate the promising, rather under-promise and over-deliver, then the other way around. And the next point I would make is, I think it's helpful for advisors in particular, to not think about these emerging technologies necessarily as a threat. Oftentimes, the knee-jerk reaction is, oh, this will replace me, oh, this will impact me in negative ways. Instead, really encourage everyone to think of it with a growth mindset in positive ways. How can I use these technologies to amplify what I do best? To scale what I do best? That type of mindset, I think leads to the most fruitful path forward.


Richard Walker 23:24

Yeah, I'm going to share something with you maybe it's an idea for Bento. And somebody shared this with me. He said, imagine if you have a body of content, your blog articles, you've written other publications, YouTube videos, even recordings of having sales conversations or whatever, you could train an AI to learn your voice. Like you can go to ChatGPT today and say write me a blog article about health in the style of and Name a famous person and it will write it in that style. What if your advisor-client could train their voice into the AI and then your content was redelivered in their voice? I don't know. It's a crazy idea.


Philipp Hecker 24:02

Rich, those days will come?


Richard Walker 24:03

Yeah, right. Hey, I also want to help people who might be listening who either want to start a business or their leaders themselves, what are some of the lessons you've learned, or even a key secret that you think would help others when customers?


Philipp Hecker 24:16

Three quick ideas, you alluded to the first one, getting the right team in place is just so important and fruitful and will pay dividends over time, in so, so many ways. So team, first and foremost, really being thoughtful about the composition, the profiles, and so on. The second comment I would make is the voice of the client, the voice of the user, over-index on providing multiple formats, especially in the early days, where your first clients your first users can input and share experiences, the good, the bad, and the Ugly. And there are multiple ways of doing that. Formal channels, informal channels, quantitative ways qualitative ways really opened up your two ears to listen to the voice of the client would be nudged number two, only great things happen if and when you do that, including, for example, client led innovation, such as the advisor training element that we alluded to. And the last piece I'll share is a very timely and topical one for us. We have two new team members that both come from companies that very successfully operated with the EOS, the entrepreneurial operating system, think of it as a balanced scorecard type of framework, applied to smaller, more nimble, faster-moving entrepreneurial organizations. Think of it as codifying a lot of commonsensical approaches in one cohesive, helpful way for organizing and running a small fast growing company. So if you're in the early or mid-stages of your company evolution, check out EOS, the entrepreneurial operating book, a great book called Traction, is a key part of that journey, worth a read for any entrepreneurs from my point of view.


Richard Walker 26:16

That's awesome. Yeah, I know a lot of businesses running off of that. Oh, hey, Philipp, as we wrap this up, I do have one more question. But before I ask, I want to help people connect with you. What's the best way for people to find you and connect with Philipp?


Philipp Hecker 26:29

Check out bentoengine.com. It has a contact us form pretty prolific on LinkedIn both as a company as an individual Philipp, one L two P's at the end. And last but not least, if you want to reach out directly if they philipp@bentoengine.com.


Richard Walker 26:48

Awesome. Okay, here comes my last question. Who is a leader that you're following or being inspired by?


Philipp Hecker 26:55

Oh gosh, so many from so many different domains. Be at the arch, be it spiritual, be political, be it historical. Let me share a contemporary CEO that is with us on the Kitces FinTech map in the advice engagement quadrant. His name is Adam Holt. He is the CEO of a wonderful company and system called Asset-Map. And I'm giving him a shout-out here because he and many others on that FinTech map have been nothing but welcoming to a young early Day Startup like us. Hitting the scene maybe coming online, we may have expected some sharp elbows, and competitive dynamics. I am thrilled to say that Adam and again many others on that advice engagement category of the FinTech map have been nothing but welcoming and exhibiting a wonderful growth mindset and trying to build awareness to this important category that we all operate in.


Richard Walker 27:58

Man that is so nice to hear. I wish I had been friendlier with my contemporaries when I started but I was 27 so I was brash and competitive. Need some of that gray hair maturity that you brought to the table. I want to thank Philipp Hecker, CEO Bento Engine for being on this episode of The Customer Wins. Go check out Philipp's website at bentoengine.com. And don't forget to check out Quik! at quikforms.com where we take the work out of paperwork. I hope you've enjoyed this discussion, and we'll click the like button, share this with someone and subscribe to our channels for future episodes of The Customer Wins. Philipp, thank you so much for being with me today.


Philipp Hecker 28:36

Thank you Rich and bye everyone on the line.


Outro 28:41

Thanks for listening to The Customer Wins podcast. We'll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.

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