Interest Rate Swap Agreement

Let’s delve into one of the most prevalent financial instruments utilized by institutions: the interest rate swap agreement.

An interest rate swap is a contractual arrangement between two parties where they agree to exchange periodic cash flows based on the same underlying principal amount and two distinct interest rates, often featuring one fixed and one floating rate.

The quintessential form of this contract is the plain vanilla interest rate swap, characterized by one counterparty paying a fixed interest rate while the other pays a floating rate. Should both parties pay floating rates, it is then referred to as a basis swap.

Key components of an interest rate swap encompass:

  • Term: Denoting the duration of the contractual commitment.
  • Underlying Asset: Representing the principal amount exchanged between the parties at the contract’s inception and maturity. This amount serves as the basis for computing periodic cash flows as per the agreed interest rates. Typically, both parties transact on the same underlying asset, obviating any immediate cash flow upon contract initiation. This notional principal is solely utilized for determining periodic payments.
  • Interest Rates: Each party commits to paying distinct interest rates. One party consistently remits a floating rate, while the other may opt for either a fixed or floating rate, set forth at the contract’s commencement.

The floating rate is derived from a market benchmark rate (commonly known as the reference rate). The prevalent benchmark is the 3-month LIBOR, although alternatives like the 1-month or 6-month LIBORs, along with government bond yields, are also utilized. The floating rate may be defined as LIBOR + 2%, LIBOR – 1%, etc.

Conversely, the fixed rate remains unaltered throughout the contractual tenure.

Consequently, an interest rate swap can be deemed equivalent to two distinct transactions: one party extending a loan to the other at x% interest, reciprocated by the latter at y% interest. Alternatively, it mirrors a scenario where one party issues bonds and sells them to the other at x% interest, reciprocated at y% interest.

Interest Rate Swap Agreement

Plain Vanilla Interest Rate Swap

This archetype remains the most prevalent among interest rate swap variants, entailing one party committing to a floating rate while the other opts for a fixed rate on stipulated payment dates. Commonly referred to as plain vanilla interest swaps or fixed-for-floating interest swaps.

For instance, Parties A and B mutually agree to a swap entailing a $100,000 notional amount each, spanning a 3-year term. At the conclusion of each year, Party A disburses a fixed rate of 5% to Party B, who reciprocates with a floating rate pegged to LIBOR 3-months + 2%.

At the first-year culmination, assuming a 3-month LIBOR rate of 2%, Party A remits $5,000 to Party B, while the latter disburses $4,000 to the former, thereby incurring a net payment of $1,000 from Party A to Party B.

At the end of the second year, with the 3-month LIBOR rate at 3.5%, Party B transfers $500 to Party A.

Upon the third-year conclusion, with the 3-month LIBOR rate at 5%, Party B pays $2,000 to Party A.


Interest rate fluctuations pose inherent risks to banks, borrowers, or bond investors. Instruments featuring floating rates offer inherent resilience against such risks. Consequently, interest rate swaps serve as risk mitigation tools, converting fixed-rate exposures into floating-rate equivalents. Hence, one of the primary objectives of interest rate swap contracts is hedging against interest rate risks. Consider a scenario where an investor purchases government bonds yielding 2% and anticipates prospective rate hikes. Deploying an interest rate swap enables the investor to lock in a fixed 3% rate while receiving a floating rate pegged to LIBOR 6-months. Typically, prominent financial entities engage in swap transactions to hedge against interest rate risks, alongside swap dealers who act as intermediaries or direct participants in such transactions.

Basis Swaps

Basis swap contracts entail parties exchanging cash flows grounded on differing floating rates.

For instance, a basis swap may entail Party A remitting a rate pegged to LIBOR 3-months to Party B, who reciprocates with a rate pegged to government bond yields 3-months + 0.5%.

Basis swap contracts offer a plethora of permutations concerning the types of interest rates involved, spanning LIBOR/yield, LIBOR/LIBOR, yield/yield, etc.