- Structured products are synthetic investment instruments specially created to meet specific needs that cannot be met from the standardized financial instruments available in the markets. Structured products can be used: as an alternative to a direct investment; as part of the asset allocation process to reduce risk exposure of a portfolio; or to utilize the current market trend.
Structured investments arose from the needs of companies which want to issue debt more cheaply. Traditionally, one of the ways to do this was to issue a convertible bond, that is, debt that under certain circumstances could be converted to equity. In exchange for the potential for a higher return (if the equity value would increase and the bond could be converted at a profit), investors would accept lower interest rates in the meantime. However this tradeoff and its actual worth are debatable, since the movement of the equity value of the company could be unpredictable. Investment Banks (financial institutions which help other companies issue bonds to borrow money) then decided to add features to the basic convertible bond, such as increased income in exchange for limits on the convertibility of the stock, or principal protection. These extra features were all based around strategies investors themselves could perform using options and other derivatives, except that they were pre-packaged as one product. The goal was again to give investors more reasons to accept a lower interest rate on debt in exchange for certain features. On the other hand the goal for the investment banks was to increase profit margins since the newer products with added features were harder to value, so that it was harder for the banks clients to see how much profit the bank was making from it.