Structured product

Structured product

A structured product is generally a pre-packaged investment strategy which is based on derivatives, such as a single security, a basket of securities, options, indices, commodities, debt issuances and/or foreign currencies, and to a lesser extent, swaps. The variety of products just described is demonstrative of the fact that there is no single, uniform definition of a structured product. A feature of some structured products is a "principal guarantee" function which offers protection of principal if held to maturity. For example, an investor invests 100 dollars, the issuer simply invests in a risk free bond which has sufficient interest to grow to 100 after the 5 year period. This bond might cost 80 dollars today and after 5 years it will grow to 100 dollars. With the leftover funds the issuer purchases the options and swaps needed to perform whatever the investment strategy is. Theoretically an investor can just do this themselves, but the costs and transaction volume requirements of many options and swaps are beyond many individual investors.

As such, structured products were created to meet specific needs that cannot be met from the standardized financial instruments available in the markets. Structured products can be used as an alternative to a direct investment, as part of the asset allocation process to reduce risk exposure of a portfolio, or to utilize the current market trend.

SEC Rule 434 (regarding certain prospectus deliveries) defines structured securities as "securities whose cash flow characteristics depend upon one or more indices or that have embedded forwards or options or securities where an investor's investment return and the issuer's payment obligations are contingent on, or highly sensitive to, changes in the value of underlying assets, indices, interest rates or cash flows."

The Pacific Stock Exchange defines structured products as "products that are derived from and/or based on a single security or securities, a basket of stocks, an index, a commodity, debt issuance and/or a foreign currency, among other things" and include "index and equity linked notes, term notes and units generally consisting of a contract to purchase equity and/or debt securities at a specific time."


Structured products are usually issued by investment banks or affiliates thereof. They have a fixed maturity, and have two components: a note and a derivative. The derivative component is often an option. The note provides for periodic interest payments to the investor at a predetermined rate, and the derivative component provides for the payment at maturity. Some products use the derivative component as a put option written by the investor that gives the buyer of the put option the right to sell to the investor the security or securities at a predetermined price. Other products use the derivative component to provide for a call option written by the investor that gives the buyer of the call option the right to buy the security or securities from the investor at a predetermined price.


The risks associated with many structured products, especially those products that present risks of loss of principal due to market movements, are similar to those risks involved with options. The potential for serious risks involved with options trading are well-established, and as a result of those risks customers must be explicitly approved for options trading. In the same vein, FINRA suggests that firms "consider" whether purchasers of some or all structured products be required to go through a similar approval process, so that only accounts approved for options trading would also be approved for some or all structured products.

Even in the case of a "principal protected" product, these products are not FDIC insured, they are only insured by the issuer, and thus they have the potential for loss of principal in the case of a liquidity crisis, or other solvency problems with the issuing company.

The regulatory framework with regard to structured products is also hazy. These may fall in grey areas legally. In India, equity related structured products seem to be in violation of the Securities Contract Regulation Act (SCRA). SCRA prohibits the issue and trade of equity derivatives except those which trade on nationally recognized stock and derivatives exchanges.


Structured investments arose from the needs of companies which want to issue debt more cheaply. Traditionally, one of the ways to do this was to issue a convertible bond, that is, debt that under certain circumstances could be converted to equity. In exchange for the potential for a higher return (if the equity value would increase and the bond could be converted at a profit), investors would accept lower interest rates in the meantime. However this tradeoff and its actual worth is debatable, since the movement of the equity value of the company could be unpredictable. Investment Banks then decided to add features to the basic convertible bond, such as increased income in exchange for limits on the convertibility of the stock, or principal protection. These extra features were all based around strategies investors themselves could perform using options and other derivatives, except that they were pre-packaged as one product. The goal was again to give investors more reasons to accept a lower interest rate on debt in exchange for certain features. On the other hand the goal for the investment banks was to increase profit margins since the newer products with added features were harder to value, so that it was harder for the banks clients to see how much profit the bank was making from it.

Interest in these investments has been growing in recent years and high net worth investors now use structured products as way of portfolio diversification. Structured products are also available at the mass retail level - particularly in Europe, where national post offices, and even supermarkets, sell investments on these to their customers.

Below is a brief description of how structured products are manufactured.

Combinations of derivatives and financial instruments create structures that have significant risk/return and/or cost savings profiles that may not be otherwise achievable in the marketplace. Structured products are designed to provide investors with highly targeted investments tied to their specific risk profiles, return requirements and market expectations.

These products are created through the process of financial engineering, i.e. by combining underlyings like shares, bonds, indices or commodities with derivatives. The value of derivative securities, such as options, forwards and swaps is determined by (respectively, derives from) the prices of the underlying securities.

The market for derivative securities has grown quickly in recent years. The main reason for this lies in the economic function of derivatives; it enables the transfer of risk, for a fee, from those who do not want to bear it to those who are willing to bear risk.

The benefits of structured products (such as principal protected notes) can include:

* principal protection
* tax-efficient access to fully taxable investments
* enhanced returns within an investment
* reduced volatility (or risk) within an investment

Structured products are by nature not homogeneous - as a large number of derivatives and underlying can be used - but can however be classified under the following categories

* Interest rate-linked Notes & Deposits
* Equity-linked Notes & Deposits
* FX and Commodity-linked Notes & Deposits
* Hybrid-linked Notes & Deposits
* Credit Linked Notes & Deposits
* Market Linked Notes & Deposits

ee Also

* Structured finance
* Derivatives

External links

* [ "Investopedia": Understanding Structured Products]

* [ US Structured Investments] - A public website that acts as a portal for information on structured investments created for the US market. A free service that does not require registration.

* [ Structured Products Association] - The official website of the 2,300-member Structured Products Association, the New York-based trade association for the structured products community.

* [ Structured Products Magazine] - The definitive magazine covering the global structured products market. Comprehensively researched and authoritative.

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