Settlement date is an industry term that refers to the date when a trade or derivative contract is deemed final, and the seller must transfer the ownership of the security to the buyer against the appropriate payment for the asset. It is the actual date when the seller completes the transfer of assets, and the payment is made to the seller.
The duration between the transaction date, also known as trade date, and the settlement date varies depending on the type of security. For example, the settlement date for Treasury bills is the next business day, denoted as T+1, whereas the settlement date for stocks is two business days, denoted as T+2. The settlement date excludes weekends, i.e., Saturday and Sunday, as well as exchange holidays.
The settlement date is the date on which a trade is deemed settled when the seller transfers ownership of a financial asset to the buyer against payment by the buyer to the seller.
The settlement date for securities ranges from one day to three days, depending on the type of security.
The settlement date considers the number of days that have elapsed since the transaction date, excluding weekends and exchange holidays.
Understanding Settlement Dates
When an investor buys a stock, bond, derivative contract, or other financial instruments, there are two important dates to remember, i.e., transaction date and settlement date. Transaction date is the actual date when the trade was initiated.
On the other hand, settlement date is the final date when the transaction is completed. That is, the date when the ownership of the security is transferred from the seller to the buyer, and the buyer makes the payment for the security to the seller. Settlement date does not occur on the same day as the transaction date since it takes some time to transfer ownership and make payment.
In the past, the transfer of ownership of securities was done manually, where the security was dispatched via post mail, and the buyer would only pay for the security when the certificate was received. Due to the varying delivery period, it was common for prices to fluctuate between the transaction date and the settlement date.
The introduction of electronic transactions reduced the lag between the transaction date and the settlement date. Bonds and stocks are settled within two business days, whereas Treasury bills and bonds are settled within the next business day. Where the period between the transaction date and the settlement date falls on a holiday or weekend, the waiting period can increase substantially.
When Does Settlement Occur?
The settlement date is the number of days that have elapsed after the date when the buyer and seller initiated the trade. The abbreviations T+1, T+2, and T+3 are used to denote the settlement date. T+1 means the trade was settled on “transaction date plus one business day,” T+2 means the trade was settled on “transaction date plus two business days,” and T+3 means the trade was settled on “transaction date plus three business days.”
The delay between the transaction and settlement dates is known as the settlement process when the buyer and seller are required to meet their part of the bargain for the transaction to be completed.
For example, if an investor buys Microsoft’s stocks on Monday with a T+2 settlement date, it means that the transaction will be completed in two business days. If there is no public holiday within the week, the trade will be completed on Wednesday. It is the date when the buyer becomes a shareholder of the company.
Similarly, if the buyer initiates a trade with the seller on Friday with a T+2 settlement date, the transaction will be settled on Tuesday. The settlement date excludes weekends, and only Monday and Tuesday will be considered as business days. The settlement dates for financial assets are governed by the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC).
Settlement Date Risks
The lag between the transaction date and the settlement date exposes the buyer and the seller to the following two risks:
1. Credit risk
Credit risk refers to the risk of loss resulting from the buyer’s failure to meet the contractual obligations of the trade. It occurs due to the elapsed time between the two dates and the volatility of the market. The buyer may fail to make the agreed payment by the settlement date, which causes an interruption of cash flows.
2. Settlement risk
Settlement risk occurs when one of the transacting parties fails to honor their part of a contract with the other party. It occurs when the seller fails to deliver the underlying asset, such as bond or stock, to the other party in exchange for payment for the exchange of securities.
Settlement risk may also occur when the buyer fails to make payment to the seller after the transfer of the ownership of the security. The risk is common in the foreign exchange market where currencies are not paid or transferred at the same time. Transactions across different time zones or geographical locations are also affected by the settlement risk.