How Treasure Financial saved $1M in engineering time with Retool
Launched in 2021, Treasure Financial is a cash management platform that allows businesses to earn revenue on their non-operating funds (i.e. idle or surplus cash) in a secure way. Customers use Treasure to earn yield on their surplus cash with low-risk, high-yield investments like managed money market funds and T-bills. Treasure’s investment team, led by Peter Thiel’s former money manager, actively manages customer investments to maximize return, minimize risk, and guarantee liquidity.
Matthew Clower joined the company as Chief Technology Officer to help accelerate the product roadmap. He soon discovered that, like many startups, the engineering team was spending a significant percentage of their capacity responding to ad hoc requests from other business teams. These interrupts included things like manually pulling data, updating customer information, and reporting on key metrics.
In this post, we’ll cover how Matthew and Treasure Financial leveraged Retool to take control of their engineering capacity while enabling business teams with better internal tools. You’ll learn how the team was able to save over $1M in operational cost in just one year, and ship more features to customers.
The engineering and product teams at Treasure Financial wanted to move quickly to deliver customer-facing improvements. Implementing back-office tooling by traditional means was considered too expensive and, prior to Matthew joining, time already being spent on business requests was not being captured in the capacity plan.
“Capacity plans at startups often assume engineers spend 100% of their time writing code for projects on the roadmap,” says Matthew. “This is neither possible nor practical and engineers do things like conduct interviews, on-call rotations, and field requests from other parts of the business. Deliberate gaps in the product or internal tooling that help product iterate more quickly come back in the form of urgent requests that are needed to keep the business running. This is normal. It’s also common, as was the case at Treasure, that these business requests and interrupts are not accounted for when planning.”
As ad hoc requests from the business increase, engineers spend less time advancing the product roadmap. If this isn’t solved progress will eventually stop entirely.
Matthew didn’t believe hiring more engineers to increase capacity for ad hoc requests from the business would be the ideal approach. These types of tasks are often simple and repetitive in nature, making them ideal candidates for automation and attempting to mask the issue rather than addressing it would ultimately be more expensive.
The first step was to gain situational awareness. Matthew implemented a process where all business requests needed to be tracked through Jira. With more visibility, he found that the engineering team was spending over 75% of their capacity on ad hoc business requests. This data also helped him prioritize which interruptions to solve for based on which solutions had the highest ROI.
Matthew and team considered several options:
1. Develop new tools from scratch
2. Update existing tools to cover different parts of the problem
3. Implement a platform like Retool
Traditional internal tools are often under-resourced and poorly supported, which can result in out-of-date tools that lack necessary features. This often leads to an influx of business requests, making options 1 and 2 unsuitable choices. These options would have also required significant frontend and API development efforts, extensive testing, and release efforts, all of which would have further strained engineering resources and led to a higher maintenance burden. Consequently, Matthew strongly felt that options 1 and 2 were not viable choices for Treasure Financial.
When he learned his engineering team was evaluating Retool as a potential solution to internal tooling, Matthew saw an opportunity to address the pain points he had experienced in previous roles. Having already been familiar with Retool for several years after meeting the founder at a technology event, he was able to quickly assess its potential value for Treasure Financial. Drawing on his expertise and insights, Matthew was able to make a compelling case for how Retool could streamline their back office toolset and help them achieve their goals more efficiently.
As the Treasure Financial team evaluated the options, Matthew noted that Retool would:
Democratize tool building, letting business users iterate with engineering to create interfaces and workflows that solve operational problems
Ensure his applications were secure with everything hosted in Treasure Financial’s infrastructure
Scale to all Treasure Financial employees with easy deployment and update capabilities
Continue using existing systems, when necessary, by integrating them with Retool
Build business applications with a much lower maintenance burden
He considered the tradeoffs of using Retool, too. For example:
It can be expensive to replace vendors
Retool would require Retool-specific engineering effort
Given the price tag on Retool, it was ultimately an easy decision to give it a try. Matthew and team were able to easily hook their data sources into Retool and build several proofs of concept.
The finance and operations teams at Treasure Financial faced the challenge of measuring business metrics with confidence. Retool offered a solution that enabled rapid development and iteration, facilitating close collaboration with the teams to build effective solutions quickly. With Retool's user-friendly platform, the finance and operations teams were able to easily create customized dashboards to track business metrics with confidence, improving their ability to make data-driven decisions.
Treasure Financial's customer success team was regularly seeking assistance from the engineering team for common requests like updating account information. The continued reliance on engineering was an indication that they needed better customer support tools. After quickly building a suite of Retool applications, the customer success team was able to self-serve better information about customers and perform common actions themselves that previously required engineering help. This made it possible for the team to service customers more efficiently and effectively, leading to improved customer satisfaction.
Retool's impact was felt throughout the organization. One of the key benefits was that the rest of the business is now able to customize and run their own reports on demand. This eliminated entire classes of business requests, freeing up engineering time to focus on more high-impact projects. Overall, Retool allowed for a more streamlined and efficient workflow across multiple teams, empowering each team to be more productive and effective in their roles.
As a hackathon project, a customer success agent collaborated with a select group of engineers to craft a sophisticated rules engine using Retool in just two days. This app empowers Treasure Financial employees to create and tailor notifications that are triggered by Treasure's events-driven architecture. Now, the team can efficiently establish customized alerts that send email (via SendGrid), post in Slack, or even make API calls.
“The rules engine would have taken several sprints to build. Retool is very good at connecting to data sources and internal endpoints, and provides out-of-the-box UIs so this type of app plays to its strengths,” says Matthew.
The rules engine app has already helped customer success identify potential customer issues and enabled Sales to stay on top of customer events that are relevant to them. The app's powerful filtering options make it easy to recognize events or collections of events and trigger other behaviors in Treasure Financial's API-based system. After the rules engine was built, the team learned about Retool Workflows which has the potential to make the rules engine even more powerful and efficient. Looking ahead, the team is eager to leverage the rules engine framework to build improved transaction monitoring tools and unlock new opportunities for the business.
Retool has become an essential tool for internal operations across the company, providing a valuable platform for Treasure Financial to build and manage their business software. The significant benefits that Retool offers have not gone unnoticed, and it's not uncommon to hear internal presenters thanking Retool during company meetings for the substantial impact it has had on their workflows.
“Retool disrupted the economics of internal tooling for us,” says Matthew. “We always consider the value to the business, resources required, and time needed to deliver value when prioritizing projects. Retool dramatically decreases both the resources required and time to deliver internal tooling. In some cases, Retool has enabled a single engineer to build an app in response to a support ticket that would have previously required a whole sprint to develop.”
Retool has helped improve efficiencies across the business
Before Retool, engineers would normally fulfill requests from the business by providing ad hoc solutions because it was so much faster and less expensive than building long-term internal tooling. These types of requests from the business are often recurring and require the same manual process each time. With Retool, engineers can build self-serve solutions that address the initial request and provide a long-term solution in roughly the same amount of time. This allows engineers to satisfy business requests while also improving internal tooling and reducing the burden of recurring requests.
Treasure uses Retool to iterate and build internal tooling faster for business teams with fewer engineering resources. Within two months of using Retool, interruptions fell from taking up 75% to below 8% of their engineering time. Matthew says that it could have taken them a year to get interruptions down to manageable levels using traditional software development approaches.
“With fewer interruptions and spending less time on internal tooling, we’ve saved over $1M in engineering time, and we use that engineering capacity to build and deliver on our product roadmap,” says Matthew. “Retool helps us focus our resources on improving our product experience for our customers.”
The Treasure engineering team is standardizing modules—reusable groups of components—in Retool to help teams use consistent definitions for business metrics. For example, they’d use modules to pull in metrics like gross revenue, net revenue, and revenue—which all have different meanings to the business. They could do this using tools like Tableau or Airflow, but the engineering team prefers using modules in Retool as a way to centralize their toolset. “It will be faster to achieve the same result. When someone wants an app with gross revenue, we want to have pre-built modules that teams can drag and drop to create the app in seconds that utilize that specific definition,” says Matthew.