Collateralized debt obligations (CDO)

Credit and catastrophe derivatives involve a liquidity risk. Often such instruments cannot be sold before the end of their term, because there is no market for them.

Credit bonds securitise the risks and transfer them to third parties as credit-linked notes, collateralised debt obligations and asset-backed securities. As a result, the buyer takes on the risk associated with a loan portfolio.

Collateralised debt obligations (CDO)

CDO are bonds backed by a diversified debt portfolio (mostly loans, bonds or credit default swaps). They give you access to investments that are unattractive or even unattainable for individual investors. Since CDO are often divided up into a number of tranches with differing credit risks, you can decide what credit risk you wish to take on.

If a debtor in the debt portfolio experiences a credit event, the equity-like tranches are affected first: they may be only partially redeemed, or not redeemed at all. If a number of debtors default, this affects the remaining tranches in order of creditworthiness, until finally the tranche with the highest credit rating (comparable to that of first-class bonds) may only be partially redeemed, or not redeemed at all. The value of a CDO is based primarily on the probability of a credit event affecting the individual companies in the portfolio.

This probability of default is determined using statistical methods and on the basis of historical data, and can cease to be meaningful in extreme market conditions.

Before you invest in a CDO, you should also look at the track record of the manager in charge of it: he or she will receive a performance-related bonus and will often have a holding in the CDO him/herself. If the portfolio is not run by a manager (which is termed a “static” portfolio), its composition remains unchanged throughout its term. In this case you should pay special attention to the composition of the portfolio.


CDO typically have a term of several years. As there is generally no secondary market, you should assume that you will not be able to sell the CDO before the end of its term.

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