What is a Derivative?
Efraim Landa is president of Effi Enterprises which assists entrepreneurs and emerging companies create value. The company offers growing companies hands-on executive management and leadership and helps them discover various ways of securing finances. They offer options such as introducing businesses to angel money, marketing strategies and divestures among many other options. Effi Enterprises works with emerging companies to help find the best solution for their particular situation. This may include stock options for employees, future contracts or any number of other strategies. Future contracts, options, and warrants are all common derivatives.
What is a derivative?
A derivative’s value is based on a contract between parties who are agreeing on an underlying financial asset, security or index. Some of the most common underlying instruments are bonds, currencies, market indexes, stocks interest rates and commodities. Some common derivatives are warrants, swaps, options, forward contracts and futures contracts. Basically, a derivative is an instrument which derives its price from another variable or financial asset. A stock option derives its value from that of a stock; and a swap gets its value from the interest rate index. A derivative obtains its value form an underlying asset and the derivative’s price will rise or fall along with the underlying asset’s value. The derivative’s value is based off of the price of the instrument and the payoff will mirror that of the instrument that they are based on.
A derivative is a contract on an underlying asset. There are many different derivatives but options are the most common type. When an owner purchases an options contract they have the right to purchase or sell the asset at a certain price prior to a pre-set date. The most common underlying assets for which contracts are purchase are stocks, commodities, bonds, currencies, market indexes and interest rates.
Basically, a derivative is a contract between a buyer and a seller. Unlike traditional investments, there is a pre-set expiration date. This time is established at the time the contract is purchased. Payoff is typically determined at the expiry most of the time. Occasionally there is no exchange of money when the contract is made.
Some very well established exchanges trade derivatives. The New York stock Exchange, the Chicago Board of Trade and the French CAC are three. Trades such as these are called exchange-traded derivatives which mean that the terms and features are highly standardized. The advantage to these is that they are regulated which is just an extra safeguard for investors.
Other types of derivative instruments like swaps, forwards and other exotic derivatives are traded over-the-counter. These have very flexible terms and a large number of underlying assets and combinations which can be purchased. These types of financial dealers can customize the derivatives for specific clients and their needs.
The largest thing that makes derivatives appealing to businesses is that they allow a certain amount of leverage. This is a financial term which refers to the increase that occurs when a small quantity of money is all that is used to control another item which is of a larger value. An example is a mortgage. A person can gain control of a highly priced piece of property for a smaller amount of money. Derivatives can give this same type of leverage, or multiplication as a mortgage can. An investor can actually control company stock which has a large value by using a small amount of money. An investor has the opportunity to make more money than the company who is reaping the benefit of the investment.
However, if derivatives take a turn for the worse they can be very costly for a business. In 1995, trader Nick Leeson traded derivatives but the trades were not profitable and because of the leverage the losses were so huge for the Barings Bank of England that they ended up in bankruptcy. Warren Buffet, who is a very successful investor, is against using derivatives and he sees them in a very negative light. However, just like any investment there are always risks involved. Derivatives are a form of investing which have been part of business finance for many years and will likely remain an integral part for many years to come.
Posted on September 6, 2012, in Finance, investing, Wall Street and tagged finance, financial instruments, financial instuments, investing, investment, making money, stocks. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.