Financial engineering

What Does Financial Engineering Mean?

It means the creation of new and improved financial products through innovative design or repackaging of existing financial instruments.

Financial Engineering is a multidisciplinary field involving financial theory, the methods of engineering, the tools of mathematics and the practice of programming. It is about the securities, banking, and financial management and consulting industries, or as quantitative analysts in corporate treasury and finance departments of general manufacturing and service firms.

Financial engineering works in other environments as well. The financial theory of offering several existing products under one package has become very common in the telecommunications industry. Many providers today offer bundled service packages that include local phone service, unlimited national long distance, Internet service, and cable or digital satellite television. The end result of this type of arrangement means one lower price to obtain three or more services at significant cost savings to the consumer.

AIMS

Sometimes known as computational finance, financial engineering relies heavily on mathematically calculating the outcome if various combinations of financial instruments are offered under one umbrella as a package deal. Usually, the calculations indicate that the providers stand to do very well with the new hybrid financial product, as the product holds the potential to attract new consumers who would have foregone use of one or more of the instruments if the only option was to purchase them individually.

Areas of application:

  • Investment banking
  • Forecasting
  • Corporate strategic planning
  • Securities trading and financial risk management
  • Derivatives trading and risk management
  • Investment management
  • Pension scheme
  • Insurance policy
  • • Credit default swap
  • • Market mechanism design

INSTROUMENTS

The convention in financial markets is to divide these instruments according to the following sectors:

1. Fixed income instruments. These are interbank certificates of deposit (CDs), or deposits (depos), commercial paper (CP), banker’s acceptances, and Treasury bill (T-Bills). These are considered to be money market instruments. Bonds, notes, and Floating Rate Notes (FRNs) are bond market instruments.

2. Equities. These are various types of stock issued by public companies.

3. Currencies and commodities.

4. Derivatives, the major classes of which are interest rate, equity, currency, and commodity derivatives.

5. Credit instruments, which are mainly high-yield bonds, corporate bonds, credit derivatives, CDSs, and various guarantees that are early versions of the former.

Financial engineering is a process that utilizes existing financial instruments to create a new and enhanced product of some type. Just about any combination of financial instruments and products can be used in financial engineering. The process may involve a simple union between two products, or make use of several different products to create a new product that provides benefits that none of the other instruments could manage on their own.

A financial engineer works with a variety of different tools to determine the risks and potential of financial investment. These specialists work extensively with mathematical formulas and computer programs in order to create sophisticated models of market trends and risks. Though companies may employ a person with an advanced degree in financial engineering as such an engineer, it is more common for these specialists to work as traders, bankers, or investment managers, and to utilize their financial engineering background in these careers in order to improve the quality of services they can provide to their clients.

One of the main responsibilities of a financial engineer is to know a great deal about financial theory and the behavior of various financial markets. These engineers use this knowledge when creating tools or simulations that will help them to make predictions about the future behavior of a market. Though unexpected events can arise in any financial market, knowledge of past market behavior and the theory that explains that behavior will help the financial engineer extrapolate from the past to make predictions about the future.

In addition to having a strong foundation in this knowledge base, the financial engineer needs to be adept at computer programming. The engineer uses programs to design simulations of market behavior. Though these programs cannot always predict the way the market will shift, a financial engineer is expected to be able to come up with reasonably accurate results based on the simulations the engineer has designed.

Many financial engineers work in the field of financial risk management. Using a knowledge of the market and computer simulations, a financial engineer can form an investment plan that includes as much of a risk factor as a person or company desires. While it may seem counter-intuitive to desire a greater amount of risk, riskier investments tend to pay off at higher yields than investments that are considered to be more stable. A person or company may turn to a financial engineer to design an investment portfolio that places some, all, or none of the investment capital at risk.

A financial engineer may also work as a financial analyst. These engineers use their knowledge and computer simulations to make predictions about the future behavior of the market. Many people with these skills may work for banks or other financial institutions, though there are also government jobs available for specialists in this field. These specialists may be employed to make recommendations to local, state, or federal government with regard the economy.

EXAMPLE

One excellent example of financial engineering is financial reinsurance. Companies that offer reinsurance options essentially provide a way for the ceding insurer to minimize a drain on available resources when a major shift in premium growth or reduction is taking place. In this scenario, the process of financial engineering helps to create a stable environment that will allow the insurer to remain solvent and stable even when extreme conditions exist.

Financial Reinsurance (or fin re), is a form of reinsurance which is focused more on capital management than on risk transfer. In the non-life segment of the insurance industry this class of transactions is often referred to as finite reinsurance.

One of the particular difficulties of running an insurance company is that its financial results – and hence its profitability – tend to be uneven from one year to the next. Since insurance companies generally want to produce consistent results, they may be attracted to ways of hoarding this year’s profit to pay for next year’s possible losses (within the constraints of the applicable standards for financial reporting). Financial reinsurance is one means by which insurance companies can “smooth” their results.

A pure ‘fin re’ contract for a non-life insurer tends to cover a multi-year period, during which the premium is held and invested by the reinsurer. It is returned to the ceding company – minus a pre-determined profit-margin for the reinsurer – either when the period has elapsed, or when the ceding company suffers a loss. ‘Fin re’ therefore differs from conventional reinsurance because most of the premium is returned whether there is a loss or not: little or no risk-transfer has taken place.

In the life insurance segment, fin re is more usually used as a way for the reinsurer to provide financing to a life insurance company, much like a loan except that the reinsurer accepts some risk on the portfolio of business reinsured under the fin re contract. Repayment of the fin re is usually linked to the profit profile of the business reinsured and therefore typically takes a number of years. Fin re is used in preference to a plain loan because repayment is conditional on the future profitable performance of the business reinsured such that, in some regimes, it does not need to be recognised as a liability for published solvency reporting.

For the consumer, the work of a financial engineer to create new finance product offerings can be a great advantage. In some instances, the new and improved product is simply a repackage of several independent but complimentary products made available at a lower price. For example, the consumer may find that purchasing insurance coverage that provides dental, hospital, and prescription coverage may be significantly less expensive than purchasing individual plans.

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