Swaptions are a trading instrument that investors can use to benefit from changes in interest rates over a period. Although they are not a traditional tool for individual investors, they can help build a diverse trading portfolio. This 2023 guide will highlight everything you need to know to get started trading swaptions, including definitions, benefits and risks.
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What Is A Swaption?
A swaption, or a swap option, is a contract that allows the issuer and buyer to enter into an interest rate swap. The buyer pays a premium and gets the right, but not the obligation, to be a part of a swap agreement with the issuer on a predetermined date. In return, the holder pays a premium for the option which will be stipulated in the contract. Although interest rate swaps are the most common, other kinds of swaps can also be created.
Importantly, swaptions are more like swaps than options. They are traded over the counter, meaning that the derivative contracts are not bought and sold on centralized exchanges. Swaptions are favorable for investors as they allow for more flexibility because contracts aren’t standardized.
This means that individual needs can be agreed upon and stated in the contract.
Swaptions allow borrowers to protect themselves against high costs that may arise from lending activities, so they do not need to commit to borrowing on the date of purchasing the option. And if the borrower does not need the hedge in the end, they will not face any loss or additional costs other than the price of the premium. The contract does not bind the investor to entering into a swap with the issuer.
How Do Swaptions Work?
There are two different kinds of swaptions, payer swaptions and receiver swaptions. With the former, the buyer has the right, but not the obligation, to enter into a swap contract that makes them the fixed rate payer and the floating rate receiver. For receiver swaptions, the opposite is true; the purchaser gains the right to enter into a swap contract where they receive a fixed rate and pay a floating rate.
Trading swaptions and standard options are similar in many ways. As are trading swaptions and futures. However, there are differences too: swaptions are traded over the counter and are not standardized in the same way as other options or futures. This means that the issuer and the buyer need to agree on the price of the contract, the expiry date, the notional amount, and the fixed and floating trading rates.
There are three different kinds of swaptions, and again the type of contract needs to be agreed upon by the buyer and seller.
The different kinds of swaptions include Bermudan, European, and American, each with a unique method of execution.
Compared to other options, swaptions offer more customization for the buyer and seller, allowing for more specific terms to be included.
Swaptions can be settled in cash, where the seller pays the buyer the current market price for an underlying swap, or by swap settlement, where two parties swap according to the terms of the contract.
Rate Of Interest
Swaptions can be used regardless of whether interest rates are expected to increase or decrease in the future. Interest rates can be fixed (non-changing) or floating (variable).
A fixed rate interest is charged on liability, like a loan, and remains the same throughout the period of the contract. The floating rate of interest changes depending on the reference rate, with LIBOR being the most common reference rate.
Types Of Swaptions
The different kinds of swaptions include:
- Bermudan Swaption – where the purchaser can execute the swap on specific dates agreed upon in the contract.
- European Swaption – where the purchaser can only execute the swap on the day the option expires.
- American Swaption – where the buyer can execute the swap any time between the day of purchase and the day of expiration.
The type of contract will affect the valuation method used to price the swaption. European-style swaptions are usually valued based on the Black model, while American and Bermudian swaptions are priced using more complex models like Black-Derman-Toy or Hull-White.
How Are Swaptions Used?
Swaptions are commonly used for hedging options positions on bonds or diversifying portfolios.
Because of the way that contracts work, they are often used by larger institutions but can be used by individual investors as well.
Traders may wish to use swaptions as a backup to their major investment operations that might be exposed to higher risks.
Swaptions are one of the best backup methods for traders looking to protect themselves against the risk of market interest rate fluctuations that can happen at any time.
They also allow the buyer to gain a maximum fixed interest rate on borrowings that are going to take place in the future, so if the rate rises above the strike price of the option then the contract can be exercised and no loss will occur.
For example, if an investor took out two loans to mature over the next year, but was unsure of how the market would act during that time, they could enter into a swaption to hedge against an unfavorable increase in rates.
However, if the rate doesn’t increase, the buyer can still borrow at lower market rates, choosing not to exercise the swap over the contract lifecycle and sell it instead.
Although it is worth noting that when you sell a swaption there is a risk it will be exercised into an interest swap rate that would be of negative value to you.
Swaption Trade Example
To understand how swaptions work in practice, it can be useful to see an example…
An investor may enter into a swaption contract to ensure that they aren’t facing risks of interest rate fluctuations.
The issuer prepares an agreement and specifies a rate of 6%, an expiration date that takes place at some point in the future, and a European exercise style. The contract is signed, and the investor now holds the right to carry out a swap on the day the swaption expires.
Over the coming period, the interest rate fluctuates but remains in the favor of the investor by the expiry date. Therefore, the investor decides not to execute the swaption, as is their right.
On the other hand, if the interest date does not increase, the investor would exercise the swaption to get an interest rate above the swap rate, thus making a gain.
Benefits Of Trading Swaptions
There are several advantages of investing in swaptions:
- Swaptions provide the borrower with a pre-agreed maximum rate of interest, which offers them more security.
- The borrower is able to remain flexible and can benefit from lower floating rates before the exercise date.
- The borrower does not undergo additional costs for terminating the swaption earlier, and can receive any leftover value that it may have should this occur.
- The borrower does not have to enter into the swap if they believe that the rates are not going to rise but fall instead, and there is no penalty for not exercising apart from the loss of the premium.
- Borrowers can sell their swaptions too, offering more flexibility to the investor.
Risks Of Trading Swaptions
As with any trading and investment tool, there are risks when it comes to using swaptions.
They are relatively low-risk in terms of investment tools, but there are still some things that should be taken into consideration:
- There is a premium, which is an upfront cost that the buyer of the swaption must pay, and if the swaption is not exercised then this premium will be lost. This might be a worthwhile risk if the premium is relatively low, but if it’s higher then it can lead to a loss.
- If the market rate does not rise above the swaption rate before the contract expires, then the borrower will not receive any value from the swaption.
Realized & Implied Volatility
Volatility is one of the key terms to know, meaning the risk that a derivative has exposure to from changes in the market. There are two kinds that are important: realized volatility, which is the actual price movement of the underlying asset, and historical volatility, which refers to looking back at the realized volatility as it has happened over time.
For trading swaptions, historical volatility is the concept that is often referred to just as ‘volatility’, because it is the key factor that is used to determine how susceptible the market could be to changes in the future.
When it comes to pricing swaptions, the Black model is often used, which means that options are valued using a mathematical equation.
The cost of a swaption is known as the premium. The premium depends on the particulars that are set out by the buyer and seller.
It also depends on the fixed interest rate of the swap in comparison with current market interest rates. For example, if current market rates are 5%, then you are going to pay more for a swaption at 6% than at 7.5%. Furthermore, the premium depends on how you make your payment for your premium, and this should be discussed when entering into the contract.
Swaptions can be a great risk-management technique, but as with any investment tool, it is important to conduct research and ensure that you have efficient trading strategies in place. Below are some of the key systems that can help to make swaption trading more effective.
Swaptions can be used as a way of compensating for the price changes of a swap. The way this works is by putting together a portfolio by shorting the derivative (in this case, the swaption), and holding a quantity of the underlying (swap). This is called a hedge portfolio.
With this trading strategy, the price increase of a swap is compensated by a price decrease in a swaption, and the same is true the other way round. This means that any risk that may be brought about by fluctuations of the price in the underlying security is minimized or eliminated entirely.
With smaller gamma values, the rate of change of the delta will also be small, so hedging can take place over longer periods.
When the gamma values are larger, however, it indicates that the delta will be subject to more shifts in terms of the underlying, and more risk in this regard means there is more risk to the value of the portfolio.
Investors often want to avoid rebalancing portfolios too often due to the high cost of hedging frequently, and hedging this way is called a gamma-neutral strategy. This means buying and selling more swaptions and not just swapping.
Achieving neutrality is not a continuous process, as to do it this way would make it expensive. Rather, risks are looked at on an individual level to see whether they are worth taking.
How To Trade With Swaptions
When you are looking to start trading with swaptions, it is important to follow several steps to get started:
First, find an online broker. Be sure to keep in mind that broker commissions vary, so if you have a specific budget it can be useful to look for a provider with lower commissions. After this, you will need to apply to trade with options. Once both of these activities have happened you can begin trading swaptions.
It is also a good idea to become acquainted with informational material surrounding swaptions and keep up to date with trading news, as getting to grips with the swaptions market will help minimize risks. Information on trading and investing can come in a whole range of different forms, from trading swaptions book PDFs and blogs to podcasts, videos, and newsletters. Many books and PDFs can also be found online for free.
Final Word On Trading Swaptions
Swaptions can either be options in their own right or an extension of a swap agreement.
Swaptions can be beneficial to investors who want to hedge finances or interest movements in general, however, they can also have higher upfront costs because they are used to hedge long-term rates.
Use this guide to get started with the popular options contract.
And for retail traders looking to start investing in derivatives, see our guide here.
What Is A Swaption?
A swaption is an options contract that allows a buyer to enter into a swap agreement at a specific interest rate over a set period.
What Currencies Are Swaptions Offered In?
Swaptions are offered in the majority of large currencies including the US Dollar, the Euro, the Japanese Yen and the Pound.
Where Are Swaptions Traded?
Swaptions are traded outside of the open market and outside of typical stock exchanges.