Masterworks: “Modern Treasury was a game-changer for us”
Masterworks is the first platform for buying and selling shares that represent investments in iconic works of art. The company uses Modern Treasury’s suite of APIs to send wire payments, manage onboarding, streamline approvals, and support reconciliation. With Modern Treasury, Masterworks is able to programmatically move money, thus saving time, reducing risk, and unlocking capacity for further scale.
moved per month
faster wire payouts
streamlined approvals per month
At a glance
- As a real-time investing platform, Masterworks needed to build custom payment automation systems. One component specifically—sending money via wires—continued to present challenges, both in terms of incoming payment reconciliation and the speed of investor payouts.
- With Modern Treasury, Masterworks streamlined, sped up, and improved accuracy for payments, which has resulted in over $116M in wire transfers initiated per month.
- Modern Treasury supports Masterworks in achieving 100% reconciliation for incoming wires, 80% faster wire payouts, and greatly increased efficiencies on over 2,000 payment approvals per month.
Masterworks is on a mission to democratize the art market—one masterpiece at a time. It is the only platform that supports fractional investments in multi-million dollar pieces by artists like Basquiat, Picasso, and Banksy. Because Masterworks opens the door to more potential investors, the company’s payment operations require reliable automation to enable scale.
A complex product with unique payments needs
Masterworks launches 4-5 new investment vehicles (i.e. investable artworks) per week. Each vehicle may be invested in by anywhere from hundreds to several thousands of investors. Currently the company manages over 350 vehicles, requiring separate bank accounts. For this reason, Masterworks requires the most innovative, real-time payments infrastructure available.
As Masterworks CFO Nigel Glenday shares, “We operate an investment platform that incumbent players in the market struggle to service. So, we needed to build technology internally that allows us to reconcile, manage and operate our own investment vehicles.” One standout piece of this in-house stack is Masterworks’ reconciliation solution, which garnered a 2022 Judges’ Choice Adam Smith Award.
Masterworks allows investors to fund their investments in a variety of ways. As Glenday says, “We avail a variety of payment rails for investors which makes the flow incredibly seamless and frictionless. This is what we want from a customer experience standpoint, but this does put an additional administrative burden on us.”
This burden included the need to support wire payments with real-time reconciliation, which led Masterworks to Modern Treasury.
Closing in on real-time reconciliation for wires
When a new investment vehicle launches, Masterworks investors are eager to get in quickly—and over one-third of all incoming payments are made via wire.
As Corporate Controller Francisco Meyo observes, “It's a core objective to have systems and processes that allow us to reconcile all incoming payments in real time. So when we launch an offering, money can start to come into the offering right away—and we want to be able to close out and fully reconcile the offering on a continuous basis.”
Early on, wires posed a real challenge–users sending funds for the wrong amount (also called cash breaks) or to the wrong account were a pain point.
Metadata could be stripped out when wires were received. To solve for this, Masterworks established a virtual account system with Goldman Sachs and incorporated Modern Treasury for payment orders to these DDAs.
Masterworks chose Modern Treasury in part because their team wanted the flexibility of an API for managing bank payments and partnerships.
“Modern Treasury simplifies the process so much—every time we need to do a payment order, we just use the same API endpoints rather than having to develop something specific for Goldman Sachs, or another bank.”Francisco Meyo, Corporate Controller at Masterworks
The role Modern Treasury plays in allowing Masterworks to programmatically fund investor accounts is a vital one. As Meyo shares, “Without Modern Treasury, we would not be able to finalize this last step of being able to send money across different entities and across different banks.”
As a result of Masterworks’ internal tooling in tandem with Goldman Sachs accounts and Modern Treasury’s API, Masterworks has achieved 100% accuracy in wire identification and zero cash breaks. The effectiveness of this payment operations system also results in faster and less error-prone closings.
Centralizing data and controls
Using Modern Treasury, Masterworks can programmatically move money between multiple accounts in batches, looking at the roll-up of bank balances and reconciling those to an internal ledger.
“Modern Treasury lets us do all of this in an automated and secure way,” says Glenday.
This is vital for companies like Masterworks moving high-dollar amounts. In the first half of 2023, per month, Masterworks moved an average of $116M per month via Modern Treasury.
Modern Treasury helps Masterworks save time and dramatically improve efficiency in the process. Before using Modern Treasury’s API and dashboard, the wire payment order creation process at Masterworks was manual.
“Now, we don't need to think about somebody going into the bank portal and creating all these payments inefficiently—we can do that programmatically.”Francisco Meyo, Corporate Controller at Masterworks
Without Modern Treasury, in addition to a team member needing to manage each payment order, Glenday would have to approve them manually. Today, Masterworks oversees this process via Modern Treasury with much greater ease using three custom approval rules. The team can now approve payments in bulk, which matters considering the volume—Masterworks averages 80 payment order approvals per day and over 2,000 per month.
Modern Treasury’s centralized platform also helps streamline money movement at Masterworks.
As Meyo shares, “From a tech perspective, it simplifies operations a lot that we just need to go into one developer site, regardless of which bank institution we're using for payments.”
The team also saves time on troubleshooting, which previously involved someone manually digging for errors.
Repaying investors 80% faster
At Masterworks, payouts via wire to investors also need to be fast, efficient, and perfectly reconciled.
“A large part of our investors base is retail, which means that any of our offerings can have anywhere between 200 to 2,000 investors, which means we could have to do 2,000 payouts. Obviously, we need to do this in a programmatic way. Otherwise, we would have to write 2,000 checks—a highly inefficient task,” says Meyo.
Masterworks hadn’t planned to manage investor onboarding via Modern Treasury but when the Masterworks team discovered this functionality, it was a boon. Currently, Masterworks collects payment information from investors through an email form generated by Modern Treasury which makes the payout process through Modern Treasury that much simpler.
“This has solved a real operational challenge for us. We are now able to send money back in less than two weeks to 95 percent of our investors.”Francisco Meyo, Corporate Controller at Masterworks
Using Modern Treasury helps Masterworks reduce payout times by at least eight weeks and also means investors get their money and any returns back 80% faster. Modern Treasury also enhances security for Masterworks:
“We never need to store our clients’ bank information on our servers. Modern Treasury takes care of all of that, and handles the reconciliation of our payments ledger so we know who’s getting paid, from which investment, and when, which is highly valuable for monitoring cash flow at any given time,” says Glenday.
Time back and better efficiency to drive scale
Increased efficiency around payments allows Masterworks to focus on innovation.
As Meyo observes, “With extra time, we focus on creating more solutions—we keep thinking about what else we can automate, what else we can develop to provide a better investment experience to all our users. Now, we're investing our time in continuing to modernize our finance function.”
Modern Treasury is also an essential part of the systems underpinning Masterworks’ goals around growth.
“We have very ambitious plans for how we want to scale the business. It would be impossible without that ability to fund and close our offerings in an efficient way. And it's all dependent on the payment operations piece of our organization,” says Meyo.
Building strong relationships for more seamless global expansion
The Masterworks team enjoys working with the people at Modern Treasury, who are eager to innovate as partners.
As Meyo shares, “I particularly enjoy that when we have an idea we can reach out to our CSM or somebody else, and they're going to be on board for setting up a call, discussing it, seeing what they can develop for us, and how we can work together right now.”
As an example, Masterworks is currently working to implement Global ACH with Modern Treasury. As a company, Masterworks is focused on working to improve the product for their global users. “Overall, we want the experience to be faster for us and less expensive for them.”
So far, the Masterworks team has been pleased with the power of Modern Treasury’s APIs and web application to drive efficiency.
“Using Modern Treasury has been a game-changer for us,” says Meyo.
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