Guardian Trust was created for the sole purpose of helping people with disabilities financially qualify for public assistance programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income. By providing high-touch customer service, some of the lowest fee structures in the industry, and unparalleled response times, Guardian Trust has built a reputation as one of the nation’s premier Special Needs Trust Administrators.

 

Guardian Trust’s leadership team wanted to grow their customer base while maintaining the qualities they’d become known for — low fees and fantastic customer service. After more than a decade in business, they were faced with real constraints as they looked to grow their impact.

The more successful Guardian became, the more their primarily paper-based processing workflow became a bottleneck. The team got frustrated and overwhelmed with how much time they spent pulling files, scanning documents, and processing checks. The paper-based system also meant that trustees were tethered to Guardian’s offices and couldn’t attend conferences or go to court without causing a huge build-up of checks needing to be processed.

As a result, one of their core pillars — unparalleled response times — took a hit, with response times for key workflows increasing by up to eight times. In order to maintain growth and provide the exceptional service and responsiveness their brand is known for, Guardian Trust needed to move their manual internal systems and processes to a system that uses automated business logic.

They’d tried using legal software to go paperless, but off-the-shelf software simply didn’t fit their needs. Major functionality gaps meant they still did most of their work with paper files.

The Concept

Managing partner Travis Finchum knew there had to be a better way. He envisioned a world where every piece of Guardian Trusts’ workflow could be handled digitally — from new client onboarding to writing and mailing checks.

To do this effectively, Guardian needed a workhorse application to combine customer relationship management (CRM) with accounting software, plus the business logic and front-end web application to tie it all together.

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The Process

We started our engagement with an in-person release planning meeting at Guardian’s headquarters. In that meeting, we met Guardian’s COO Jennifer Ruiz, who became our daily point of contact.

Travis and Jennifer laid out their vision, and our solutions architects mapped out the workflows the application needed. The product, a proprietary trust management platform called Conductor, would act as the nerve center for all of Guardian Trust’s operations.

 

The Tech Stack

We decided to write this service in Elixir, primarily because Elixir is a functional programming language well suited to processing large volumes of requests efficiently. We also chose to use Phoenix, an application framework built on top of Elixir that provides all of the tooling necessary for database management, environment configurations, and channels. Phoenix was the primary mechanism we used to build out automation of triggers and actions with third-party services.

We used ReactJS for the user interface framework, allowing us to maintain state in the client (web browser) and automatically sync state with the back-end server in order to provide soft real-time functionality.

All payments are processed through Guardian’s accounting software, Xero, ensuring the accuracy of all beneficiary account transactions in the context of the bank accounts where the funds are stored. Checks are automatically written and mailed through a service called Checkeeper, and clients get automatic status updates about their payments through Sendgrid.

The Results

In the last two years, Guardian has increased its number of accounts by 35% increase without needing to increase staffing. By using the new back-office system, Guardian has automated their workflows and raised their thruput to manage 800 more accounts, reducing the time to create a new account by 65%.

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"Our rate of growth is on a launch path as far as volume, and we want to be able to keep up with it efficiently and not get overwhelmed. Having the technology to have each of the processes go more efficiently is crucial."
- Jennifer Ruiz, COO of Guardian Trust

In addition to the massive efficiency gains, Guardian Trust now has access to robust reporting tools. Instead of using spreadsheets to explain the ROI of investments to their clients, they’re able to use real-time dashboards, providing a modern and intuitive customer experience.

And this is just the beginning for Guardian Trust. Jennifer plans to continually improve upon the platform, and her team is on the lookout for manual processes that can be automated.

 

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35%

increase in number of accounts managed

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