Haircut (finance)

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In finance, a haircut is the difference between the market value of an asset used as loan collateral and the value ascribed to that asset when used as collateral for that loan (i.e., an ascribed (nominal) reduction to the value of that asset, when it is used as collateral). [1] The amount of the haircut reflects the perceived risk of the asset falling in value or being sold in a fire sale: The larger the risk is perceived to be, the larger the haircut will be. The lender will, however, still hold a lien for the entire value of the asset. In the event the collateral must be sold to repay the loan (i.e., if the borrower cannot repay the loan), the haircut is intended to protect the lender from recovering less than the full value of the outstanding loan amount from sale of that collateral, even allowing for reductions in the market value.

Finance Academic discipline studying businesses and investments

Finance is a field that is concerned with the allocation (investment) of assets and liabilities over space and time, often under conditions of risk or uncertainty. Finance can also be defined as the art of money management. Participants in the market aim to price assets based on their risk level, fundamental value, and their expected rate of return. Finance can be split into three sub-categories: public finance, corporate finance and personal finance.

Market value or OMV is the price at which an asset would trade in a competitive auction setting. Market value is often used interchangeably with open market value, fair value or fair market value, although these terms have distinct definitions in different standards, and may or may not differ in some circumstances.

In lending agreements, collateral is a borrower's pledge of specific property to a lender, to secure repayment of a loan. The collateral serves as a lender's protection against a borrower's default and so can be used to offset the loan if the borrower fails to pay the principal and interest satisfactorily under the terms of the lending agreement.


For example, United States Treasury bills, which are seen as fairly safe (high quality liquid assets), might have a haircut of 10%, while for stock options, which are seen as highly risky, the haircut might be as high as 30%. In other words, a $1,000 treasury bill will be accepted as collateral for a $900 loan, while a $1,000 stock option might only allow a $700 loan.

Lower haircuts allow for more leverage. Haircut plays an important role in many kinds of trades, such as repurchase agreements (referred to in debt-instrument finance as "repo" but not to be confused with the concept of repossession denoted by that term in consumer finance) and reverse repurchase agreements ("reverse repo" in debt-instrument finance).

In finance, leverage is any technique involving the use of debt rather than fresh equity in the purchase of an asset, with the expectation that the after-tax profit to equity holders from the transaction will exceed the borrowing cost, frequently by several multiples⁠ ⁠— hence the provenance of the word from the effect of a lever in physics, a simple machine which amplifies the application of a comparatively small input force into a correspondingly greater output force. Normally, the lender will set a limit on how much risk it is prepared to take and will set a limit on how much leverage it will permit, and would require the acquired asset to be provided as collateral security for the loan. For example, for a residential property the finance provider may lend up to, say, 80% of the property's market value, for a commercial property it may be 70%, while on shares it may lend up to, say, 60% or none at all on certain volatile shares.

Repurchase agreement Very short-term collateralized financial loan between two parties.

A repurchase agreement, also known as a repo, is a form of short-term borrowing, mainly in government securities. The dealer sells the underlying security to investors and buys them back shortly afterwards, usually the following day, at a slightly higher price.

Repossession, colloquially repo, is a "self-help" type of action in which the party having right of ownership of the property in question takes the property back from the party having right of possession without invoking court proceedings. The property may then be sold by either the financial institution or third party sellers.

In mass media, [2] [3] [4] as well as in economics texts, [5] [6] [7] especially after the financial crisis of 2007–2008, [8] the term "haircut" has been used mostly to denote a reduction of the amount that will be repaid to creditors, [4] or, in other words, a reduction in the face value of a troubled borrower's debts, [3] [note 1] as in "to take a haircut": to accept or receive less than is owed. [9] In 2012, world media was reporting on the "biggest debt-restructuring deal in history," [10] :1 which included the "very large haircut" of some "70 percent of par value" of Greek state bonds, in NPV terms. [10] :27

Economics Social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services

Economics is the social science that studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

Financial crisis of 2007–2008 Global financial crisis

The financial crisis of 2007–2008, also known as the global financial crisis and the 2008 financial crisis, was a severe worldwide economic crisis considered by many economists to have been the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, to which it is often compared.

Face value value of a coin, stamp or paper money, as printed on the coin, stamp or bill itself by the minting authority

The face value is the value of a coin, stamp or paper money, as printed on the coin, stamp or bill itself by the issuing authority. The face value of coins, stamps, or bill is usually its legal value. However, their market value need not bear any relationship to the face value. For example, some rare coins or stamps may be traded at prices considerably above their face value.

SEC net capital rule

The financial term "haircut" began, and continues to be used, as a reference to valuation discounts applied under the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's net capital rule. The net capital rule was adopted to provide safeguards for public investors by setting standards of financial responsibility to be met by broker-dealers and requires a broker-dealer to have at all times sufficient liquid assets to cover its current indebtedness. The SEC explained the role of haircuts in calculating net capital in 1967:

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Government agency overseeing stock exchanges

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is an independent agency of the United States federal government. The SEC holds primary responsibility for enforcing the federal securities laws, proposing securities rules, and regulating the securities industry, the nation's stock and options exchanges, and other activities and organizations, including the electronic securities markets in the United States.

The uniform net capital rule is a rule created by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") in 1975 to regulate directly the ability of broker-dealers to meet their financial obligations to customers and other creditors. Broker-dealers are companies that trade securities for customers and for their own accounts.

In financial services, a broker-dealer is a natural person, company or other organization that engages in the business of trading securities for its own account or on behalf of its customers. Broker-dealers are at the heart of the securities and derivatives trading process.

In computing "net capital," the rule requires deductions from "net worth" of certain specified percentages of the market values of marketable securities and future commodity contracts, long and short, in the capital and proprietary accounts of the broker or dealer, and in the "accounts of partners." (These deductions are generally referred to in the industry as "haircuts.") . . . The purpose of these deductions from "net worth," is to provide a margin of safety against losses incurred by a broker or dealer as a result of market fluctuations in the prices of such securities or future commodity contracts. [11]

"Haircut" since has been extended to a number of other financial contexts, whenever it is desirable to show that some securities (typically debt securities) are being valued for some purpose at a discount.

ECB use of haircuts

The European Central Bank applies a haircut to all securities offered as collateral. The size of the haircut depends on the riskiness and liquidity of the security offered as collateral. [12]

LTCM and haircut fees

The speculative hedge fund Long Term Capital Management (LTCM) saw spectacular losses and required massive bail outs in 1998. Prior to that it was able to obtain practically next-to-zero haircuts as its trades were considered safe by its lenders. This was likely due to LTCM's clout and the fact that no counterparty had a total picture of the extent of its complex and highly leveraged operations. [13]

As used for exchange-traded products

When used in the context of exchange traded products such as stocks, options, or futures, haircut is used interchangeably with the term margin. It is the amount of capital required by a broker to maintain the positions currently in a trading account. If haircut exceeds the account's capital, the broker can either require additional capital (e.g., margin call), or liquidate positions until the haircut no longer exceeds available capital.

In sovereign debt write-downs

During the Eurozone crisis, and particularly in the context of the Greek financial crisis, the term "haircut" acquired more specifically the meaning of state-debt holders receiving less than par. [10] :27 It's "the market's euphemism for wiping out a large portion of the debt owed to the creditors." [14]

The haircut agreed to by Greek-state debt holders was deemed "voluntary" by the banks' chief negotiator Charles Dallara, although, in order to convince domestic bond holders, the Greek government Greece "made it clear that holdouts would not receive a sweeter deal," while it also declared that if the haircut was not completed, the Greek state would not be able to "further service its debt." [15]


  1. Not just state- but also corporate-debt. See "Private equity firm bosses to get $370M windfall in Caesars mess", The New York Post , 22 August 2016

Related Research Articles

Long-Term Capital Management L.P. (LTCM) was a hedge fund management firm based in Greenwich, Connecticut that used absolute-return trading strategies combined with high financial leverage. LTCM was founded in 1994 by John W. Meriwether, the former vice-chairman and head of bond trading at Salomon Brothers. Members of LTCM's board of directors included Myron S. Scholes and Robert C. Merton, who shared the 1997 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for a "new method to determine the value of derivatives".

High-yield debt financial product

A high-yield bond is a term in finance for a bond that is rated below investment grade. These bonds have a higher risk of default or other adverse credit events, but typically pay higher yields than better quality bonds in order to make them attractive to investors.

Default (finance) failure to meet the conditions of a loan

In finance, default is failure to meet the legal obligations of a loan, for example when a home buyer fails to make a mortgage payment, or when a corporation or government fails to pay a bond which has reached maturity. A national or sovereign default is the failure or refusal of a government to repay its national debt.

A credit risk is the risk of default on a debt that may arise from a borrower failing to make required payments. In the first resort, the risk is that of the lender and includes lost principal and interest, disruption to cash flows, and increased collection costs. The loss may be complete or partial. In an efficient market, higher levels of credit risk will be associated with higher borrowing costs. Because of this, measures of borrowing costs such as yield spreads can be used to infer credit risk levels based on assessments by market participants.

Hypothecation is the practice where a debtor pledges collateral to secure a debt or as a condition precedent to the debt, or a third party pledges collateral for the debtor. A letter of hypothecation is the usual instrument for carrying out the pledge.

Liquidity risk is a financial risk that for a certain period of time a given financial asset, security or commodity cannot be traded quickly enough in the market without impacting the market price.

Structured finance

Structured finance is a sector of finance, specifically financial law that manages leverage and risk. Strategies may involve legal and corporate restructuring, off balance sheet accounting, or the use of financial instruments.

Collateralized debt obligation Financial product

A collateralized debt obligation (CDO) is a type of structured asset-backed security (ABS). Originally developed as instruments for the corporate debt markets, after 2002 CDOs became vehicles for refinancing mortgage-backed securities (MBS). Like other private label securities backed by assets, a CDO can be thought of as a promise to pay investors in a prescribed sequence, based on the cash flow the CDO collects from the pool of bonds or other assets it owns. Distinctively, CDO credit risk is typically assessed based on a probability of default (PD) derived from ratings on those bonds or assets. The CDO is "sliced" into "tranches", which "catch" the cash flow of interest and principal payments in sequence based on seniority. If some loans default and the cash collected by the CDO is insufficient to pay all of its investors, those in the lowest, most "junior" tranches suffer losses first. The last to lose payment from default are the safest, most senior tranches. Consequently, coupon payments vary by tranche with the safest/most senior tranches receiving the lowest rates and the lowest tranches receiving the highest rates to compensate for higher default risk. As an example, a CDO might issue the following tranches in order of safeness: Senior AAA ; Junior AAA; AA; A; BBB; Residual.

Prime brokerage is the generic name for a bundled package of services offered by investment banks, wealth management firms, and securities dealers to hedge funds which need the ability to borrow securities and cash in order to be able to invest on a netted basis and achieve an absolute return. The prime broker provides a centralized securities clearing facility for the hedge fund so the hedge fund's collateral requirements are netted across all deals handled by the prime broker. These two features are advantageous to their clients.

In finance, margin is collateral that the holder of a financial instrument has to deposit with a counterparty to cover some or all of the credit risk the holder poses for the counterparty. This risk can arise if the holder has done any of the following:

A secured loan is a loan in which the borrower pledges some asset as collateral for the loan, which then becomes a secured debt owed to the creditor who gives the loan. The debt is thus secured against the collateral, and if the borrower defaults, the creditor takes possession of the asset used as collateral and may sell it to regain some or all of the amount originally loaned to the borrower. An example is the foreclosure of a home. From the creditor's perspective, that is a category of debt in which a lender has been granted a portion of the bundle of rights to specified property. If the sale of the collateral does not raise enough money to pay off the debt, the creditor can often obtain a deficiency judgment against the borrower for the remaining amount.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to finance:

Asset and liability management is the practice of managing financial risks that arise due to mismatches between the assets and liabilities as part of an investment strategy in financial accounting.

In financial economics, a liquidity crisis refers to an acute shortage of liquidity. Liquidity may refer to market liquidity, funding liquidity, or accounting liquidity. Additionally, some economists define a market to be liquid if it can absorb "liquidity trades" without large changes in price. This shortage of liquidity could reflect a fall in asset prices below their long run fundamental price, deterioration in external financing conditions, reduction in the number of market participants, or simply difficulty in trading assets.

The U.S. central banking system, the Federal Reserve, in partnership with central banks around the world, took several steps to address the subprime mortgage crisis. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke stated in early 2008: "Broadly, the Federal Reserve’s response has followed two tracks: efforts to support market liquidity and functioning and the pursuit of our macroeconomic objectives through monetary policy." A 2011 study by the Government Accountability Office found that "on numerous occasions in 2008 and 2009, the Federal Reserve Board invoked emergency authority under the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 to authorize new broad-based programs and financial assistance to individual institutions to stabilize financial markets. Loans outstanding for the emergency programs peaked at more than $1 trillion in late 2008."

Securitization is the financial practice of pooling various types of contractual debt such as residential mortgages, commercial mortgages, auto loans or credit card debt obligations and selling their related cash flows to third party investors as securities, which may be described as bonds, pass-through securities, or collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). Investors are repaid from the principal and interest cash flows collected from the underlying debt and redistributed through the capital structure of the new financing. Securities backed by mortgage receivables are called mortgage-backed securities (MBS), while those backed by other types of receivables are asset-backed securities (ABS).

In the context of sovereign debt crisis, private sector involvement (PSI) refers, broadly speaking, to the contributions or efforts of private sector creditors to the crisis resolution process, and, specifically, means that the private sector shares some of the costs of a financial crisis by incurring itself financial losses.


  1. What Does Haircut Mean?
  2. Safire, William (6 January 2009). "Haircut". The New York Times . Retrieved 3 July 2018.Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |work= (help)
  3. 1 2 "All Greek to you? Greece's debt jargon explained". BBC . 10 July 2015. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  4. 1 2 Clinch, Mark (19 August 2015). "Why the IMF is wrong on a Greek debt haircut". CNBC . Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  5. Brigham, Eugene F.; Houston, Joel F. (2011). Fundamentals of Financial Management. Cengage Learning. ISBN   978-0538477116.
  6. Moersch, Mathias; Schmidt, Carolin (8 August 2015). "Of Haircuts and Extensions: An Analysis of Greek Government Debt". International Research Journal of Applied Finance. VI: 87–108.
  7. Blundell-Wignall, Adrian; Slovik, Patrick (February 2011). "A Market Perspective on the European Sovereign Debt and Banking Crisis" (PDF). Financial Market Trends. OECD. 2010 (2): 87–108.
  8. "Ukraine creditors' debt plan shows bond haircut inevitable". Reuters . 29 May 2015. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  9. "What is a Haircut (in finance)?". Corporate Finance Institute. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  10. 1 2 3 Liu, Yan; Bergthaler, Wolfgang; Giddings, Andrew; Kosonen, Amanda; Papaioannou, Michael; Grigorian, David; Guscina, Anastasia; Presciuttini, Gabriel; Tsuda, Takahiro; Baqir, Reza (26 April 2013). "Sovereign Debt Restructuring: Recent Developments and Implications" (PDF). Policy Papers. IMF . Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  11. Net Capital Requirements for Brokers and Dealers - Interpretation and Guide, Release Nos. ASR-107, 34-8024, 32 Fed. Reg. 856, 1967 WL 88933 (Jan. 18, 1967).
  12. ECB Risk control framework
  13. Jorion, P. (1999), "Risk Management Lessons from Long-Term Capital Management"
  14. Parkinson, David (12 July 2011). "Rollover? Haircut? Greece faces ugly choices". The Globe and Mail . Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  15. Wautelet, Patrick R. (2 July 2013). "The Greek Debt Restructuring and Property Rights: A Greek Tragedy for Investors?" (PDF). University of Liège). Retrieved 3 July 2018.