Yet another proactive, predictive technology tool startup has quietly been building buzz since its founding in 2021.
This one, called Bento Engine, however, has already also built an impressive roster of well-known industry leaders as initial investors and advisors.
The bulleted list can be found in Wednesday’s announcement of an initial seed round of approximately $1 million, and includes a who’s who roster from within the RIA, technology and consultancy sectors—from Marty Bicknell and Shannon Eusey, CEOs of Mariner Wealth and Beacon Pointe Advisors, to Anton Honikman, CEO of MyVest, and Kelly Waltrich, former CMO of Orion Advisor Solutions.
Bento is meant to provide advisors with proactive advice and in turn generate preapproved client-specific content for advice-driven RIA firms. While various CRM and marketing providers to advisors have attempted to generate predictive, next-best action advice to advisors over the past decade, most have met with, at best, limited success.
Among the list of investors in Bento is Greg Friedman, a longtime financial advisor and serial advisory technology entrepreneur, who co-founded CRM Software, the creator of Junxure (acquired by AdvisorEngine in 2018). Friedman currently serves as chief strategy officer of Wealthspire Advisors, as his own firm, Private Ocean, was acquired in November 2021.
“A million people talk about this and claim to do this but none of them do—I’m not even talking about the predictive aspect,” said Friedman, referring to the multitude of technology providers he has tried over the years that failed to deliver on warning advisors in advance of upcoming client-specific milestones that could serve as touch points for communication or planning opportunities.
“Yes, they are at [version] 1.0 right now, but even as it sits right now, the many age-based financial planning opportunities they have built into the platform are far better than I had envisioned for Junxure,” he said of Bento Engine.
Simply put, Bento’s technology already integrates with the most common industry customer relationship management applications and platforms used by advisors, including Microsoft Dynamics, Practifi, Redtail, Salesforce (and the Salesforce overlay XLR8) and Wealthbox.
Once set up with an advisor’s particular CRM, the Bento Engine seeks out upcoming advice opportunities for clients (for example, a teenager hitting a birthday in their state when they can apply for a credit card or a client that has turned 50 and can allocate additional assets into a retirement plan).
The technology then matches those milestones or planning opportunities with a package of relevant communication resources as an actionable CRM task.
“The single biggest problem it solves for me is helping to create a consistent client experience across all our advisors,” said Friedman, who noted Wealthspire had grown to 140 advisors across many offices and remote locations.
Jen Goldman, a longtime industry consultant who currently runs her own eponymous firm specializing in helping advisors better manage and scale their businesses, is also an investor in and advisor to the startup.
She had several of her client advisors using three different CRM applications join Bento’s development pilot.
“From where I sit there is nothing else quite like it because it is so planning-centric,” said Goldman, who is also a CFP.
“And selfishly we are having such a talent squeeze [in the industry], so it can be extremely helpful having this knowledge pumped into a junior advisor, kind of like training in the box,” she said. She also noted the company’s attention to covering and updating the regulatory aspects of multiple states, something often overlooked in technology for state-regulated younger advisors or solo practitioners.
Gavin Spitzner, president of Wealth Consulting Partners, who also works with many growth-oriented RIAs, stated his own reasons for investing.
“For all the talk about personalization at scale, it’s simply not happening broadly in the industry—too few clients are getting proactive advice—and that is despite the inherent power of the data resident in CRM systems,” he said, adding that too few firms and their advisors are internally able to tap those capabilities on their own.
“Bento provides, even at this early stage, a turnkey way to tap into that data and trigger personalized, compliant “Next Best Action” communications for both prospects and clients, and there is a mountain of research that shows that advisors that do this increase share of wallet, and drive quality referrals,” said Spitzner.
Fellow investors in Bento, Doug and Liz Fritz, the co-founders of technology consultancy F2 Strategy, said their own work in assessing customer experience and client satisfaction working with advisory firms showed a clear trend.
“We found that the highest correlated attribute of a wealth management relationship is communication,” Doug Fritz said.
“What Bento does, and we haven’t seen this in any other tool built specifically for wealth management, is a mechanism to take known client data, for example date of birth, and financial planning data and having it create automated, quality communications that are client-specific,” he said.