SYNOPSIS

We review the development of structured financial products, discuss their accounting treatment, and illustrate their valuation using simple numerical examples. The crucial element we incorporate is the possibility that the underlying assets in structured financial products have correlated returns. The benefit of structured finance is it uses diversification to protect the senior tranches' cash flows. However, when the underlying assets have correlated returns diversification is not as effective. Normally, structured financial products would be marked “to market,” obviating the need for analytical valuation techniques. Current accounting standards, however, have significant provisions for valuing structured financial products based on analytically derived expectations of future cash flows, especially when markets are illiquid. Therefore, it is important for both preparers and users of accounting information to understand how underlying economic fundamentals, such as the correlation in returns, affect expectations of future cash flows.

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