An option contract that grants its holder the right but not the obligation to enter into a predetermined swap contract

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What is a Swaption?

A swaption (also known as a swap option) is an option contract that grants its holder the right but not the obligation to enter into a predetermined swap contract. In return for the right, the holder of the swaption must pay a premium to the issuer of the contract. Swaptions typically provide the rights to enter into interest rate swaps, but swaptions with other types of swaps can also be created.

Swaption - Word box with the text Sqaption - An option to enter into an underlying swap

Understanding Swaptions

In terms of their trading characteristics, swaptions are closer to swaps than to options. For example, swaptions are over-the-counter securities similar to swaps. In other words, the derivative contracts are traded over-the-counter, not on centralized exchanges. Also, the swaptions benefit from a great degree of flexibility since the contracts do not come in a standardized form.

Before the transaction, the counterparties in a swaption must agree on the various features of the contract. For example, the parties determine the price of the swaption (also known as the swaption’s premium) and the length of the option.

In addition, the counterparties must decide on the features of the underlying swap. The features generally include the notional amount, swap’s legs (fixed vs. float), and frequency of adjustment for the variable leg. Also, the counterparties determine the benchmark for the floating leg of a swap.

Applications of Swaptions

Swaptions come with numerous applications in the investment industry. For example, they are frequently used in hedging various macroeconomic risks such as interest rate risk. A company anticipating an interest rate increase may purchase a payer swaption to protect itself from the interest rate risk. Additionally, the swaption may allow hedging the risks associated with financial securities such as bonds. Also, financial institutions commonly employ swaptions to change their payoff profile.

Swaptions are primarily employed by large corporations and financial institutions, including investment banks, commercial banks, and hedge funds.

Types of Swaptions

The classification of swaptions is based on the types of legs involved in the anticipating swap contract. Based on such a classification, there are two primary types of swaption: payer swaption and receiver swaption.

With the purchase of a payer swaption, the purchaser obtains the right to enter into a swap contract, which implies that he or she receives the floating swap leg in exchange for the fixed swap leg.

Conversely, the receiver swaption delivers the right but not an obligation to enter into a swap contract, in which the holder of a swap must pay the floating swap in exchange for the fixed swap leg.

Execution Styles

Similar to plain-vanilla options, swaption contracts come with different execution styles. In other words, different swaptions contain different clauses that determine the exercise dates. The most common swaption styles include European, American, and Bermudian styles.

  • European swaption: A swaption that can be exercised only on the exercise date.
  • American swaption: A swaption that can be exercised on any date between the origination and exercise dates, as well as on the exercise date.
  • Bermudian swaption: A swaption that can be exercised on several predetermined dates in between the origination and exercise dates.

The swaptions styles are crucial in selecting the appropriate valuation method. For example, European style swaptions are typically valued using the Black valuation model. On the other hand, American and Bermudian swaptions, which are considered to be more complex relative to European options, are usually priced using Black-Derman-Toy or Hull-White models.

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