Quanto Swap Definition

What Is a Quanto Swap?

A quanto swap is a cash-settled, cross-currency interest rate swap, where one of the counterparties pays a foreign interest rate to the other. The notional amount is denominated in the domestic currency. Interest rates may be fixed or floating.

Because they depend on the currency exchange rate and differences in interest rates in those currencies, they are also known as differential, rate differential, or just "diff" swaps. Another name for these swaps could also be guaranteed exchange rate swap because they naturally embed a fixed currency exchange rate in the swap contract.

Key Takeaways

  • A quanto swap is a derivative transaction where two parties exchange interest rates in different currencies.
  • Quanto swaps may also be known as guaranteed exchange rate swaps, differential, rate differential, or simply "diff' swaps.
  • Although the payments reference exchange rates in two different currencies, the principal for both payments is in the same currency.
  • Quanto swaps are useful to investors who believe that a particular asset will do well in a certain country, but that country's currency will not do well.
  • Quanto swaps can used fixed or floating interest rates. A fixed-for-floating swap has slightly higher risk, but reduces foreign exchange risks.

Understanding a Quanto Swap

Though quanto swaps deal with two different currencies, payments are settled in just one. For example, a possible quanto swap would involve a U.S. investor paying six-month LIBOR in U.S. dollars, for a US $1 million loan, and receive in return, payments in U.S. dollars at the six-month EURIBOR + 75 basis points.

Fixed-for-floating quanto swaps allow an investor to minimize foreign exchange risk. This avoidance of risk is achieved by fixing both the exchange rate and interest rate at the same time.

Floating-for-floating swaps have a slightly higher risk. In this cross-currency swap, exposure of each party to the spread of each country's currency interest rate happens.

Quanto swaps and options are useful for investors who want exposure to a foreign market, but not foreign exchange risk.

Benefits of Quanto Swaps

Investors will use quanto swaps when they believe that a particular asset will do well in a country, but at the same time, fear that the country's currency will not perform as well. Thus, the investor will swap the interest rates with another investor while keeping the payout in their home currency. In this way, they can separate interest rate risk from exchange rate risk.

In a typical interest rate swap, two agreeable counterparties exchange one stream of future interest payments for another, with a basis of a specific principal amount. These swaps require the exchange of a fixed interest rate value for a floating rate value. The swap may be in either direction but is built to reduce or to increase exposure to the changes in interest rates. An interest rate swap may also help obtain a marginally lower interest rate than would have been possible without the swap.

However, for an investor in a different country wishing to engage in a swap in the U.S. market, they first would have to exchange their asset from their home currency into U.S. dollars. Each payment is made in U.S. dollars, which the foreign investor must then transfer back into their home currency.

This strategy will involve potential interest rate risk, depending on whether the foreign investor receives floating-rate payments. It also creates a foreign exchange, or currency risk. A quanto swap solves this problem because all future exchange rates are fixed at the time of the swap contract writing.

Quanto swaps can exchange a fixed interest rate for a floating interest rate, or they can swap between two floating rates. This is slightly riskier than a fixed-for-floating swap.

Requirements for a Quanto Swap

There are four important considerations when trading a quanto swap. The first is the notional value of the underlying asset, usually a loan. This value is priced in the asset's home currency.

The second two figures are the index rates of the two currencies, which can be fixed or floating. One rate represents the interest rate of the home currency, the other represents the international currency that is used to settle the transaction.

The last consideration is the date of maturity, when the underlying loan or obligation comes due.

A Quanto is any type of derivative instrument that is settled in a different currency than the underlying asset. In addition to quanto swaps, there are also quanto options, quanto futures, and quanto CDSs.

Example of a Quanto Swap

As a demonstrative example of a quanto swap, imagine a European company that borrows $1 million to fund operations in the United States, to be repaid over five years with interest based on the 3-month SOFR rate. In this example, the current SOFR is 5%, but the EURIBOR is only 1%.

Suppose further that the company expects U.S. rates to increase, relative to European interest rates. In that case, they would be better off exchanging the SOFR-based interest payments for a EURIBOR-based rate.

The company would try to execute a quanto swap to replace their SOFR-based payments for an interest rate based on EURIBOR+4%, although they will continue to pay in dollars.

If the company's predictions about interest rates are correct, they will end up saving money in the long run.

What Is a Quanto Credit Default Swap?

A quanto credit default swap is a credit default swap where the swap premium or cashflows are paid in a different currency than the underlying asset. These are useful for international investors who wish to gain exposure to CDS in another country but want to reduce their exposure to exchange rate risk.

What Is a Quanto Option?

A quanto option is an options contract that is denominated in a different currency than the underlying asset. When the option matures, any payoff is received in foreign currency at a fixed exchange rate. This is useful for traders who wish to gain exposure to foreign options markets but who do not want to expose themselves to exchange rate risk.

Is a Quanto Swap the Same as a Cross-Currency Swap?

A quanto swap is not the same as a cross-currency swap, although there are some similarities. A typical cross-currency swap involves two parties that exchange principal and cash flows in two different currencies, along with predetermined interest rates. In a quanto swap, one party pays another at a foreign interest rate, but using a local currency.

What Is Quanto Risk?

Quanto risk refers to the possibility of adverse changes in the asset prices or exchange rates used in a quanto option or swap.

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  1. BookDown. "Quanto Options."

  2. FINcyclopedia. "Quanto Risk."

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