Interest rate derivatives (IRD) are a derivative product that is based on a benchmark interest rate or group of interest rates. They are used by traders and borrowers to hedge their positions or speculate on movements in the market.
Interest rate derivatives are often called IRDs and are subclassified into essentially two types: linear and non-linear. They are then broken down into “vanilla” and “exotic” IRDs. We will discuss the differences in the article below and their importance in market speculation and hedging. Interest rate derivatives also come with the inherent market and exposure risk.
Interest rate derivatives (IRD) are a derivative based on a benchmark interest rate or group of interest rates.
Traders and borrowers used interest rate derivatives to hedge their positions or speculate on movements in the market.
IRDs are subclassified into two types: linear and non-linear. They are further broken down into “vanilla” and “exotic” IRDs.
Linear IRDs vs. Non-Linear IRDs
When an IRD is linear, its value is generally highly correlated to the one-to-one changes in the underlying interest rate or interest rate market it represents. These products are often found under different names.
Non-linear IRDs are generally dictated by a greater than one-to-one movement in the underlying interest rate or group of interest rates. Often, they incur extreme volatility, so they must be carefully utilized by professionals and traders alike. The different types of products generally attributed to linear and non-linear IRDs can be found in the below graphic:
Vanilla IRDs and Exotic IRDs: Analyzing the Differences
Exotic IRDs are generally defined as interest rate derivatives with a specialized extension. For example, if a particular derivative comes with start and end dates outside the conventional norms or IRDs, it is said to be more of an exotic product.
On the other hand, if it includes more conventional features regarding all aspects, including end dates, it can be described as a vanilla IRD. Exotic products can be found under many different product names, including collateralized mortgage obligations, cross currency swaptions, and inverse floaters, to name a few.
Interest Rate Investment Risks: A Cautionary Approach
Trading derivatives involving interest rates require a significant amount of understanding of the interest rate market. They require a broad understanding of how market forces can influence the interest rate and how central banks can play a key role in determining the end value of a derivative trade.
Risk management is a critical part of utilizing IRDs and, if improperly positioned, can expose the investor to risk that they would initially not think of taking on. Interest rate derivatives are often sensitive to market fluctuations, and periods of recession or inflation, if not anticipated properly, can cause a devastating impact on the position taken with such products.
Thus, they should more often than not be utilized by sophisticated investors to protect against risk and overleverage. Even professional investors, if not careful, can find themselves with a portfolio with more risk than they realize and hold derivative products that can expose them to losses that far exceed their initial projections.