This content is from: Local Insights

South Korea: Arrival of ETN

Soonghee LeeYoungwoo Park
The Korea Exchange (KRX) opened the marketplace for exchange traded notes (ETN) on November 17 2014. ETN are derivative combined securities that guarantee the same rate of return as that of the underlying index at maturity. They are simpler than equity-linked securities (ELS) in structure and tradable prior to maturity. Since they are derivative combined securities, ETN have the same legal characteristics as equity linked warrants (ELW) and ELS, but differ in structure from ELW and ELS because they are a product linked to the underlying index. Moreover, although ETN provide the return in a similar manner as exchange traded funds (ETF) since both are indexed to the underlying asset, ETN differ from ETF in that they provide a return based on the underlying index at maturity after subtracting the fund fees. Participants of the capital market anticipate that the ETN market, introduced in an effort to advance the Korean derivative products market, will satisfy ordinary investors' demand for a variety of new financial products in the existing low growth, low interest rate environment. Participants also believe that securities firms would be afforded an opportunity to increase their profitability and competitiveness from more varied product offerings. The backdrop for introduction of the ETN marketplace can be explained as follows. The number of investors who are seeking medium risk and rate of return, rather than traditional products such as stocks and bonds, increased in the rapidly aging society. In addition, there arose the need to develop new financial products (such as index linked structured products) so that ordinary investors could make investments in more varied product offerings.

Commentators anticipate that there will be more investment opportunities for ordinary investors because the introduction of ETN allows direct investment with a smaller investment amount in various asset classes, while it was previously difficult for such investors to understand and compare the profit structures of derivative combined securities products. Moreover, if index-linked structured products that were previously traded outside the exchange begin to be traded on the exchange, then issues such as misselling, system risk, and low price transparency would be resolved. This would lead to better protection for investors, and ultimately, the creation of profitable products for securities firms. On the other hand, while various pensions and funds are important institutional investors that make the market and provide liquidity as liquidity providers, it has been reported that pensions and funds would not participate in the ETN market in the early stage of the launch because of internal fund management regulations, tax issues, and lack of perceived attractiveness of the market. Therefore, appropriate measures need to be provided to deal with such issues.

Soonghee Lee and Youngwoo Park

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