banner image What Is A Credit Derivative

Credit Derivatives - Meaning, Types, and How It Works

August 17, 2023 • 1730 views

A credit derivative is a financial contract that derives its value from underlying credit instruments, such as loans, bonds, etc. It allows investors to transfer or manage credit risk without owning the actual underlying assets. This blog will explore the concept of credit derivatives, how they work, what are its types, and the benefits that it offers.

What is Credit Derivatives?

Credit derivatives are financial instruments that derive their value from various credit instruments, such as a bond, loan, or other debt obligation. It can be used to transfer or manage credit risk without owning the underlying asset. Credit derivatives enable investors to hedge against potential credit defaults or speculate on changes in creditworthiness.

How do Credit Derivatives Work?

Credit derivatives function by providing protection or exposure to the credit risk associated with a specific reference entity or credit event. Here's an overview of how they generally work:

  • Parties Involved: Credit derivatives involve two primary parties - the protection buyer and the protection seller. The protection buyer seeks insurance against credit risk, while the protection seller assumes the risk in exchange for premium payments.
  • Reference Entity and Credit Events: The credit derivative contract identifies the reference entity, which is the underlying entity whose credit risk is being transferred. Credit events, such as default or bankruptcy, trigger the contract's payout or other specified obligations. 
  • Credit Default Swaps (CDS): One of the most common types of credit derivatives is Credit Default Swaps (CDS). In a CDS, the protection buyer pays regular premiums to the protection seller. If a credit event occurs, such as default, the protection seller pays a predetermined amount to the protection buyer.

Also Read - Credit Review - Meaning, Purpose, and How Does It Work?

Different Types of Credit Derivatives

Credit derivatives come in various forms, offering flexibility and tailored risk management solutions. Here are some of the commonly traded credit derivatives.
1.    Credit Default Swap (CDS)
Credit Default Swaps are the most widely used credit derivatives. They involve an agreement between two parties, the protection buyer and the protection seller. The buyer pays regular premiums to the seller in exchange for protection against default by the underlying entity. If a credit event occurs, such as a default or bankruptcy, the protection seller compensates the buyer for the loss.

2.    Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs)
Collateralized Debt Obligations are structured financial products that pool together various debt instruments, including bonds and loans. These instruments are then divided into different tranches with varying levels of risk and return. Investors can buy specific tranches based on their risk appetite and investment objectives. CDOs provide a way to diversify credit risk and allocate it among different investors.

3.    Credit Linked Notes (CLNs)
Credit-linked Notes are debt instruments whose returns are linked to the credit performance of an underlying entity. They allow investors to gain exposure to the credit risk associated with specific reference entities. If a credit event occurs, such as a default, the investor may experience a loss of principal or interest payments.

4.    Total Return Swaps (TRS)
Total Return Swaps allow investors to exchange the total return of an underlying asset, which can be a bond or loan, for a predetermined payment. In a credit context, TRS can be used to transfer credit risk. If a credit event occurs, the party assuming the credit risk compensates the other party for the loss in the value of the underlying asset.

What are the Benefits of Credit Derivatives?

Credit derivatives offer several advantages to market participants, including:

  • Risk Management: Credit derivatives provide a mechanism for transferring and managing credit risk, enabling market participants to mitigate exposure to default or credit events.
  • Liquidity: These instruments enhance liquidity in credit markets by facilitating the trading and transfer of credit risk. 
  • Portfolio Diversification: Credit derivatives allow investors to diversify their portfolios by gaining exposure to different credit assets and managing risk across various sectors and entities.

Also Read - What is Credit Repair - How Do Credit Repair Companies Work?

Risks of Credit Derivatives

There are several risks related to credit derivatives which can have some major impacts. You can learn about them in the below points:
1.    Counterparty Default Risk
Counterparty risk is a threat of a party failing or defaulting to meet the requirements of credit derivatives from their side. If this happens, a non-defaulting party will also suffer from financial losses. Thus, it is crucial to assess this risk as credit derivatives involve transactions between one or more bodies based on their creditworthiness.

2.    Credit Risk
Credit risk for credit derivatives represents the risk influenced by the modification or changes in a party’s creditworthiness. Credit derivatives hold values that are sensitive to an entity's credit quality. In case an entity suffers which deteriorates its creditworthiness, this can potentially decrease the value of a credit derivative. Eventually, this impacts the finances of both parties involved. 

3.    Market Risk
Credit derivatives involve market risk as it is exposed to different financial conditions, fluctuating interest rates, and ever-changing economic factors. Market dynamics have a major influence on credit derivatives. Interest rates and market sentiment change frequently, impacting the value of credit derivatives. Therefore, it is crucial for you to manage the different market risks to stop your credit derivatives go down in value. 

4.    Liquidity Risk
Liquidity risk is the inability to purchase and sell a credit derivative, at your desired price as the demand is low. Credit derivatives are sometimes tough to liquidate as it is a complicated financial instrument. With insufficient trade, it is tough to transact credit derivatives at desired rates. Hence, problems like this can significantly hamper a credit derivative’s value.

Example of a Credit Derivative

For a better understanding, you can refer to the below example of a credit derivative:
Let’s consider Company B has issued bonds that are been purchased by Company A with an expectation of huge returns. However, A also fears that B might go bankrupt resulting in a loss of funds. Thus, Company A purchases CDS (Credit Default Swaps) from Company C, a type of credit derivative. This secured Company A’s investment in Company B’s bonds.
So, now if Company B actually goes bankrupt, then Company C will pay back Company A their investments. Whereas, if Company B does well then Company A would get their returns, however, A has to let go of the premium they paid to obtain CDS.

ALSO READ :- Details of Top Credit Bureaus/Credit Rating Agencies In India

Valuing Credit Derivatives

Before buying a credit derivative, it is vital for you to learn about the different risks associated with it. By considering some factors such as the chances of defaulting, the creditworthiness of an entity, and current market conditions, you can understand how much a credit derivative is actually worth. Various methods like quantitative models and pricing models are used to optimise the process of valuation.

To Conclude

Credit derivatives are essential tools in modern finance as they enable you to manage credit risk effectively. By transferring or hedging credit risk, market participants can enhance their risk management strategies, improve liquidity, and diversify their portfolios. Understanding the role of credit derivatives in the financial system allows individuals to make informed decisions while applying for loans. You must apply for loans at trusted lending such as Poonawalla Fincorp.

Frequently Asked Questions About Credit Derivatives

1.    What is the most popular credit derivative?
Credit Default Swaps are the most widely used credit derivatives.

2.    When did credit derivatives start?
Credit derivatives emerged in the 1990s as financial markets sought innovative ways to manage credit risk.

3.    Who invented credit derivatives?
Credit derivatives were developed in the 1990s by institutions like J.P. Morgan and Bankers Trust. J.P. Morgan introduced the Credit Default Swap (CDS), a popular credit derivative. These derivatives have transformed financial markets, allowing investors to hedge credit risk effectively.


We take utmost care to provide information based on internal data and reliable sources. However, this article and associated web pages provide generic information for reference purposes only. Readers must make an informed decision by reviewing the products offered and the terms and conditions. Loan disbursal is at the sole discretion of Poonawalla Fincorp.
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poonawalla fincorp team

Poonawalla Fincorp Team

Our team of expert writers and editors are passionate about providing authentic and valuable information on finance. Our aim is to simplify financial and finance-related concepts. We strive to help our readers become more aware and empowered to make informed financial decisions.

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