What Are The Different Types of Derivatives?

Investing in derivatives can be an excellent way to profit from allocating your funds according to your wish. Most experienced investors like to invest in derivatives that help them earn a good profile from the asset's underlying value. However, before you invest, you must take some time to observe the market and its price movements. Learning about the market and its trends can help you properly allocate your asset or funds.

Also, knowing about derivatives and the different types of benefits of derivative trading. So, keep reading if you are interested in derivatives or trading derivatives. Here, we will discuss different types of derivatives.

What Are Derivatives?

Derivatives are financial contracts, also known as derivatives contracts, that derive their value from underlying assets, commodities, securities, currencies, or funds. The underlying value of an asset constantly changes according to changing market movements. The primary principle of entering the derivative market is to assume the future value of the underlying asset to gain profit. A derivative is a contract between parties that can be traded over the counter or in an exchange.

For instance, you have invested in equity share, and its price can go up and down in the market. If the price goes up, you may face a significant loss. In such a condition, you can enter the derivative to earn profit by placing the right bet or just cushioning yourself from the loss you can face due to a price fall.

Knowing Derivatives

Before we learn about different types of derivative contracts, let us understand derivatives in detail. Derivatives are complex financial contracts between two or more parties that give them access to specific trading markets and participate in trading. Traders use derivatives to enter a market and trade various assets.

Usually, derivatives are a form of advanced investment. The common underlying assets from which derivatives gain value are stocks, currencies, commodities, bonds, interest rates, and market indexes. The value of derivatives depends on changing market prices of the underlying asset, and a derivative’s value goes up and down as the market price of the underlying asset changes.

Derivatives can be used in numerous ways, leveraging a holding, hedging a position, or speculating an underlying asset’s directional movement. The underlying assets are primarily traded in OTC or exchange and traded mainly by brokers. Note that a company hedges to avoid volatility or risks; instead of calculating or assuming the underlying asset's price. Each party of the derivative trading has its profit or price margin, and the hedge helps to protect the profit against any downfall of the underlying asset’s price.

In addition, the derivatives used in over-the-counter trading involve higher counterparty risks (that lead to the default of any party participating in the transaction. The derivative contract traded between two parties privately are unregulated, and to hedge the risk of such transactions, traders buy a currency derivative to lock a particular exchange rate. Examples of derivatives used to hedge these risks are currency swaps and currency futures.

Types of Derivatives

There are four major types of derivatives, futures, opinion, swaps, and forwards in the market, and below we will discuss them in detail –

1: Futures

Future derivatives are a standard legal agreement among the traders of the underlying assets. In a  future derivative contract, a predetermined quantity and price are decided to pay at a specific future date. However, unlike options traders, future derivatives are legally liable to exercise the contract. Also, the future derivatives contract remains legal until the expiry.

Different derivatives can be traded over the counter or via exchange. But a future contract is legally standardized and is only traded in exchange. The main reason behind this type of trading is to make it credit risk-free and less volatile. Also, future contracts are marked to be market on a daily basis, and the value of the contract continuously changes with the market movement till the expiry date.

2: Options

In an options derivative contract, the buyer has the full right to trade an underlying asset at a specific price within a specific period. Still, they are not obligated to exercise the contract. The price decided for trading is called the strike price, and the seller of the options contract is known as the option writer. This type of derivative trading can occur in exchange and over-the-counter or OTC, unlike future derivatives that can only trade in exchange through an options trading app.

In European options, one can only exercise the contract on the expiry day. However, for the American options, they can exercise the contract before the expiry date. It is one of the significant characteristics of derivatives options you should keep in mind while trading options derivatives.

3: Swaps

Swaps are also a type of derivative contract that enables both trading parties to swap their financial obligations. And interest rate swaps are the most common ones in derivative trading. The cash flow depends upon the principal amount agreed by both trading parties without exchanging the principal. In addition, the amount of cash flow depends on the interest rate. Generally, in such trading, one cash flow is fixed or non-changeable, and the other depends on the changing benchmark interest rates.

Also, swap derivatives fall under OTC or over-the-counter trading, which means they cannot be exchanged in the exchange market. These derivative contracts are over-the-counter contracts that can be traded between financial organizations and businesses.

4: Forwards

Forwards are also a type of derivative, similar to futures. In a Forward contract, the holder is legally obliged to exercise the contract. However, the forward contracts are not standardized or valid to trade through stock exchanges. Also, forward derivatives do not fall under marked-to-market and are only traded through over-the-counter or OTC.

You must note that this over-the-counter derivative contains a higher counterparty risk for both parties involved. In such cases, if one party becomes insolvent, the other party may not have a choice but to lose its position value. Once the forward contract is formed, the contract parties become eligible to offset this position with other counterparties. However, this increases the risk of potential credit or counterparty risk as more and more parties get involved with the same contract.

Read More: Payoff Graphs vs Profit & Loss Diagrams

Advantages  and Disadvantages of Derivatives

Derivative trading has become more popular in current times. But as a trader, you must learn about the good and bad both sides before you enter the derivative market, and below we will briefly discuss the advantages and disadvantages of derivatives –


  • Hedge against market volatility and unfavorable market price and interest rate movement.

  • Lock in the exchange rate to eliminate the potential loss.

  • Risk mitigation.

  • They can be purchased on margins making them less costly as investors can buy them with borrowed money.


The main concern is to match the value of a derivative with its underlying asset, and the following variables make it harder to determine the correct value for the derivative contract.

  • Interest rates

  • Underlying asset’s holding cost.

  • Expiration time amount changes.

As the underlying asset's price determines the derivative's value and it does not have any determined value, it easily becomes vulnerable to market sentiments and prone to market risks. Also, the demand and supply have a massive impact on the derivative's value regardless of the underlying asset's price movement.


Derivatives are complex financial contracts between two or more parties and can be traded through OTC or exchange. Today many stock market investors and businesses invest in derivative contracts to hedge against trading volatility. However, you can only profit from derivatives when you enter the market with proper knowledge. And above, we have shared different types of derivatives with other essential details like what derivatives are and the advantages and disadvantages of derivatives.

Also, you can get professional help from brokers and hedgers with experience in the derivative market and trading. And lastly, always observe the derivative market and analyze market trends to make profitable bets.

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What Are The Different Types of Derivatives?
Nisarg S 7 April, 2023
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