What are Interest Rate Swaps(IRS) | What happens in Interest Rate Swap ?

In the world of finance “Interest Rate Swap” is a financial technique used by financial institutions around the world. But we don’t realise that it is applicable to a common borrower like you and me. IRS is considered to be a complex financial arrangement but ironically it is barely a 5-10 minute simple read that can help you not only understand the process of an IRS but also use this in your next borrowing negotiation, thus helping you save a considerable amount of interest on your debt. Let's see how.

What is Interest Rate Swap with example? How does an interest rate swap work?

Let's break down the term first. ‘Interest Rate’ indicates that it talks about a rate of interest on a loan payable by any borrower (debtor) to the lender. ‘Swap' simply means to take something by giving something. So, IRS means that you as a borrower and payer of interest are going to come into an arrangement with another borrower whereby you will take up a fixed rate of interest payment on the debt in place of a floating rate of interest or vice versa. Now, this decision of yours will be completely based on your expectations of a rise or fall in interest rates in your country or with your bank or your lender. And an IRS can take place only if there are two borrowers who have different expectations about the future interest rates.

Interest Rate Swaps Example

So, suppose Mr. A has a loan of $100,000 from his bank with a fixed rate of interest on the debt @ 8%. And also imagine that Mr. B, another borrower, has borrowed $100,000 from his bank at a floating rate of interest @ LIBOR+2%. Suppose LIBOR is 5% now.So Mr. A is paying $8000 p.a. and Mr. B is paying $7000 p.a.

*LIBOR is a benchmark floating rate of interest
*(Floating rate of interest is a changing interest rate on your loan as and when your lender bank changes the rates due to economic changes)
*Mr. A & Mr. B need not necessarily be borrowers of same amounts but we have considered $100,000 for easy calculations.

From, fixed rate of interest and floating rate of interest, you must have learnt that at the time of taking a loan Mr. A has opted for a fixed interest rate on his loan because he assumes that the interest rates in the future are going to rise, while Mr. B expects a fall in the future interest rate and so opts for a floating interest rate.

Going forward, they both are unhappy with their interest rates i.e. Mr. A thinks that he was wrong about his assumption and Mr. B finds it a burden to pay an uncertainly changing interest rate as and when the bank changes its rate and so they decide to enter into an IRS agreement whereby Mr. A will be paying interest at a floating rate and Mr. B at a fixed rate after the Swap. So with this change Mr. A will be paying $7000 p.a. as interest when the interest rates are unchanged and Mr. B will be paying $8000 p.a. at all times.

If the LIBOR rises from 5% to 7% Mr. A will end up paying $9000 p.a and Mr. B interest remains same. Again if the LIBOR falls from 5% to 4% Mr. A ends up paying $6000 p.a. while Mr. B pays the same $8000 p.a. as he has shifted to a fixed interest rate regime after the Swap.

Thus, an IRS is a mutually benefiting agreement between 2 parties who are borrowers in some form and have an opposite expectation about the future interest rates or have an opposite risk taking ability.

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