In the financial industry, a haircut is a value reduction made to an asset to determine the capital required, margin, and level of collateral. The difference between a loan's principal and the asset's market value will serve as collateral. This amount is given as a percentage. The lender must consider the shifting market price over time, which results in the disparity.

The distinction between the purchase and sale price of a stock, bond, derivative contract, or any other financial instrument is sometimes referred to as a haircut. The phrase "haircut" refers to the market maker's spread in this context.

How to Interpret a Haircut

When a financial institution or lender assigns a value to a collateral asset less than the requested loan amount, this is known as a haircut. The lender chooses the haircut amount, which varies depending on the institution and situation and is typically expressed as a percentage difference. The amount of haircut is determined by weighing the hazards. For example, if the borrower defaults, the lender must take into account the level of risk they would run if they could not sell the asset or collateral for a high enough price.

Compressed haircuts result from high price predictability and lesser associated risks because the lender is confident that the collateral can satisfy the loan amount upon liquidation. As an illustration, government securities dealers frequently employ treasury bills in overnight borrowing transactions, also known as repurchase agreements (repos). Due to the high level of assurance regarding the value, liquidity, and credit rating of the securities used as collateral in such instances, the haircut is minimal.


For instance, if a borrower seeks out a loan for $15000 from a financial institution and uses their stock portfolio worth $15000 as security, the financial institution will very likely recognize the $15000 portfolio as only worth $7500 as collateral. The haircut is the value of the stock portfolio provided as collateral reduced by 50%, or $7500.

There is no one-size-fits-all percentage for haircuts because each asset must be handled uniquely. For example, an asset may have a value of $10000, but if it receives a 10% haircut, it will only be valued at $9000. In a similar light, another item might be worth $10000 but given a haircut of 30%, meaning it is regarded as though its value were $7000.

Important Takeaways and Final Overview

· A haircut is a difference between the price at which a stock is bought and sold, or the spread market makers may establish.

· The discrepancy between the loan amount and the market value of collateralized assets is known as a haircut in the finance industry.

· The safer the asset, the lower the haircut, and the riskier the asset, the greater the haircut.

To sum this up, Lenders take a haircut, or a percentage reduction in the value of the asset used as collateral for the loan, to shield themselves from price volatility and associated risks. When a borrower defaults on their obligations, financial institutions calculate the value of the collateral asset and assign that value to the asset.

Lenders must evaluate the collateral as an independent case to assess the associated risks, including volatility, price predictability, and liquidity. Different assets are addressed in different ways.