Structured Finance

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Written By
Contributor Image
Written By
Dan Buckley
Dan Buckley is an US-based trader, consultant, and part-time writer with a background in macroeconomics and mathematical finance. He trades and writes about a variety of asset classes, including equities, fixed income, commodities, currencies, and interest rates. As a writer, his goal is to explain trading and finance concepts in levels of detail that could appeal to a range of audiences, from novice traders to those with more experienced backgrounds.

What Is Structured Finance?

Structured finance is a form of investment that involves the creation of complex financial instruments, which are often used to fund large and specialized projects and redistribute risk.

Structured finance allows for risk sharing between investors and borrowers, as well as providing access to capital from multiple sources.

Structured financing deals include:

  • securitization
  • asset-backed securities (ABS)
  • collateralized debt obligations (CDOs)
  • covered bonds
  • project bonds, and
  • syndicated loans


Key Takeaways – Structured Finance

  • Structured finance involves complex financial instruments, often created to redistribute risk and facilitate lending.
  • It encompasses products like mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations.
  • It allows financial institutions to free up capital, enhance liquidity, and optimize their balance sheets.
  • Therefore, these potentially foster more lending and investment opportunities in the market.
  • Despite offering financial innovation and flexibility, structured finance can harbor hidden risks and complexities. These were notably highlighted during the 2008 financial crisis, emphasizing the need for transparency and risk management.


How Does Structured Finance Work?

Structured finance works by creating innovative financial instruments such as asset-backed securities (ABS) or collateralized debt obligations (CDOs).

These products are used to raise money for large projects or investments without increasing the risk faced by any single investor or lender.

By pooling the risk, structured finance allows borrowers to access capital from multiple sources and reduces the chances of default on repayment.


Benefits of Structured Finance

Structured finance has many advantages for both investors and borrowers alike:

  • Risk sharing between lenders and investors – by pooling their investments, financial institutions can reduce their exposure to higher-risk investments;
  • Diversified portfolio – with a diversified portfolio, investors can maximize returns while minimizing losses;
  • Access to capital – structured finance allows companies to access funds at competitive rates despite not having a traditional credit history or collateral; and
  • Liquidity options – structured products provide alternatives for investors looking for liquidity and flexibility.


What Is the Role of Structured Finance in an Economy?

Structured finance plays a major role in the economy by providing financial solutions to organizations.

It is a type of asset-backed security that is created through the securitization process which involves pooling together multiple assets, such as loans, and repackaging them into tradable securities with higher credit ratings.

This helps reduce risk for investors by creating an additional layer of diversification spread across a larger number of asset classes.

Structured finance also provides organizations with access to capital markets, allowing them to raise funds quickly and efficiently from investors around the world.

This can be used to fund growth initiatives or take advantage of investment opportunities.

By providing organizations with access to capital, structured finance can help drive economic development and create jobs in different regions.

In addition, structured finance helps make the financial markets more efficient by allowing investors to easily and quickly access different types of assets.

Overall, structured finance plays a critical role in the economy by providing organizations with access to capital and helping create jobs and economic development. It also helps make the financial markets more efficient.


How to Learn Structured Finance

Learning structured finance requires dedication and a strong knowledge of financial models, accounting, economics, and law.

Understanding the fundamentals of structured finance is essential for anyone interested in entering this field.

In order to become an expert in the field, it’s important to understand the core concepts, instruments, strategies, and processes involved with structuring deals.

Learn about financial modeling

The first step to understanding structured finance is to become familiar with basic financial models.

A good starting point would be reading literature on corporate finance or investment banking.

This will help you gain an understanding of underlying principles such as the time value of money, discounted cash flows, and yield curves.

Learn about different types of securities

Additionally, you should learn about different types of securities (e.g., bonds, preferred stock) and how they relate to each other.

This knowledge will be essential in understanding the complex capital structures that are often used in structured finance transactions.

Understand accounting principles

It’s also important to gain an understanding of basic accounting principles.

This is necessary for both analyzing deals and structuring new ones.

Understanding how cash flows move around and how deals can be structured to maximize returns is a crucial part of working with structured finance.

Finally, it’s important to get familiar with legal documents in order to read indentures, loan agreements, and other contracts involved in these transactions.

Knowing the language and terminology used in these documents will help you understand the risks involved and develop strategies to mitigate them.


Structured Finance vs. Leveraged Finance

Structured finance and leveraged finance are both forms of corporate finance, but they differ in the way they are structured.

Structured finance involves complex financial instruments that are used to spread risk among different lenders and investors while leveraged finance is a type of financing in which the borrower borrows more money than its current assets or reserves can cover.

Structured finance is typically used for large-scale projects such as infrastructure development, public-private partnerships, project finance, asset securitization, and other types of investment structures.

The purpose of structured finance is to manage risk by creating structures that protect lenders from losses due to default and to provide higher returns for their investments.

Structures vary depending on the needs of the borrower and the structure may include special purpose vehicles, derivatives such as swaps and options, and other complex financial instruments.

This is done with the hopes of generating greater returns for investors than if they had used traditional financing approaches.

Leveraged finance often involves taking on additional debt in order to increase equity returns.

The difference between structured finance and leveraged finance lies in the way risk is managed.

Structured finance focuses on spreading the risk among different parties while leveraging finance focuses on increasing investor returns by taking on more debt.

The idea is that the extra returns will more than pay off the cost of the borrowed funds. For example, if the interest on the loan is 4 percent and the rate of return on the investment is 10 percent, that captures a 6 percent spread.

Both forms of financing require careful analysis and understanding of how each approach will affect both the lender and borrower’s risk profiles.


What are the Techniques of Structured Finance?

Structured finance involves a number of techniques used to reduce risk and maximize returns for investors.

These include:

Security Issuance

Structured finance involves the issuance of different types of securities, such as bonds or preferred shares, that are backed by an underlying asset.

This helps spread out risk while providing liquidity options and flexibility.

Risk management

Structured finance uses various risk management strategies to reduce potential losses.

These strategies include credit default swaps (CDSs), tranched structures, and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs).


Another important component of structured finance is the use of collateral to secure a loan or other form of financing.

If a borrower defaults on payments, the lender can seize and sell the collateral to recoup their losses.

Synthetic Structures

Synthetic structures are used in structured finance to create customized financial instruments that transfer risk or leverage capital markets activity.

These may include credit derivatives (e.g., swaps and options), securitized debt instruments, and other complex financial products.

Understanding these techniques is necessary for working with structured finance and developing strategies to maximize returns while minimizing risks.


Fixed Income – Structured Financial Instruments


Structured finance is often used with a wide range of asset classes, including:

  • Real estate
  • Mortgage-backed securities
  • Infrastructure projects
  • Private placements
  • Asset-backed securities
  • Credit derivatives
  • Collateralized debt obligations (CDOs)
  • Equity derivatives
  • Collateralized fund obligations

Real estate

Real estate is popular with structured finance because it provides a tangible asset with growth potential.

Mortgage-backed securities

Mortgage-backed securities are popular because they provide investors with relatively low risk and potentially higher returns than other asset classes.

Infrastructure projects

Structured finance can be used to fund large-scale infrastructure projects, such as bridges or roads.

Private placements

Private placements are often used in structured finance for investments that don’t meet traditional lending criteria.

Asset-backed securities

Asset-backed securities are financial instruments backed by an underlying asset or pool of assets, providing investors with the option to purchase fractional ownership in a larger portfolio.

Credit derivatives

Credit derivatives are financial instruments designed to transfer risk from one party to another.

Collateralized debt obligations (CDOs)

CDOs are a type of structured finance instrument that involves pooling together multiple debts and selling them as a single security.

Equity derivatives

Equity derivatives are complex financial instruments used to transfer equity-related risks or leverage activity that occurs in the equity market.

They can include options, futures, swaps, and other products.

Collateralized fund obligations

Collateralized fund obligations are securitizations of alternative investments (mostly hedge funds and private equity).

Understanding the various asset classes and techniques associated with structured finance is essential for investors looking to maximize returns while minimizing risk.

Through the structured finance markets, investors can spread their risk across multiple asset classes and gain access to higher potential returns than traditional financing methods.

Understanding how each of these asset classes works and how they interact in the market is important for structuring profitable transactions.


FAQs – Structured Finance

What is a pooled investment?

A pooled investment is a type of structured finance product in which investors pool their money together to purchase investments such as bonds, stocks, and other securities.

This allows for diversification, easier access to larger investments, cost savings, and the ability to take advantage of special features or tax benefits that may not be available if each investor purchased the securities individually.

What is securitization?

Securitization is a structured finance process whereby assets are pooled together and sold as securities to investors.

Normal assets, like stocks and bonds, involve a securitization process. For example, a company’s stock represents ownership of the company, split into partial ownership shares, which then works to distribute the cash flows of the company back to shareholders.

The proceeds from the sale of these securities, for the company, can then be used to acquire more assets or to fund other projects.

Structured finance investments typically provide investors with higher yields than traditional investments, but also carry additional risks due to their complex nature.

Securities backed by securitized assets are usually rated based on their creditworthiness, allowing investors to make informed decisions about which products they invest in.

Securitization is often used for mortgages, auto loans, student loans, and other financial products.

What are the risks associated with a pooled investment?

Pooled investments involve many of the same risks as any other type of security.

These include:

  • market risk (the potential for losses due to changes in stock prices or interest rates)
  • credit risk (the chance that an issuer might default on its obligations), and
  • liquidity risk (the possibility that it could be difficult to convert assets into cash)

Investors should consider these risks carefully before committing to any pooled investment.

Additionally, it is important for investors to understand the specific terms and conditions of the product they are considering and how those terms may affect their return on investment.

It is also important to make sure you are investing in products that align with your financial goals and risk tolerance.

What types of benefits can I get from a pooled investment?

There are many potential benefits of investing in structured finance products such as pooled investments.

These include:

  • Diversification – Pooling investments increases diversification among asset classes and reduces individual stock or bond risk. It also gives investors access to larger investment opportunities than they could on their own.
  • Cost Savings – Pooling investments can reduce the costs associated with buying, selling, and managing multiple securities.
  • Tax Benefits – Structured finance products often offer tax benefits that are not available when purchasing individual assets.
  • Special Features – Some structured finance products come with additional features such as options and derivatives which may provide additional returns or protect against losses.

Finally, some pooled investments may be better suited for certain investor goals than individual investments.

For example, a pooled fund may invest in lower-risk assets to meet an investor’s need for capital preservation while still providing potential upside growth.

What is an example of a structured financial product?

One example of a structured financial product is a collateralized debt obligation (CDO).

A CDO pools together debt and other securities into one package that can be sold to investors.

The profits from the underlying assets are then used to pay interest and principal on the bond itself, creating an opportunity for investors to earn returns.

CDOs are typically backed by corporate or government bonds, mortgage-backed securities, asset-backed securities, and other fixed income investments.

However, CDOs also carry higher risks than traditional bonds due to their complex structure. As such, they may not be suitable for all investors.



Structured finance is a unique tool that investors and borrowers can use to access capital for large projects or investments.

By pooling risk between multiple sources, structured finance allows for more efficient utilization of capital while minimizing individual risks.

This allows borrowers to access funds at competitive rates without having traditional credit history or collateral, and provides investors with a diversified portfolio of high-yield investments.

Overall, structured finance helps facilitate the flow of capital in today’s global economy.

For those looking to learn structured finance, by learning financial modeling, understanding different types of securities, gaining knowledge of basic accounting principles, and becoming familiar with legal documents, you can be well on your way to becoming a master of structured finance.