The fixed income bond market is comprised of different types of debt. Subordinated debt sits at the lower end of the debt stack, just before equity. In case of a default, repayment of subordinated debt will come after the other bond tranches. This implies that subordinated debt bears a higher risk for investors. Therefore, in return, subordinated debt bonds compensate investors with higher yields. As a result, the asset class offers a compromise in terms of risk and returns, positioning it in the middle of the capital structure, just between equities and senior bond tranches.
European banks represent the largest sub-segment of the subordinated debt asset class. This is related to the regulatory framework and its stringent rules in terms of bank capital requirements. Issuing subordinated debt allows banks to increase their capital ratios while at the same time it serves to strengthen their creditworthiness.
In 2023, after a turbulent month of March, the subordinated debt market has moved back in the spotlight. The asset class’s valuations have improved, offering an opportunity to gain access to higher yields from subordinated bonds issued generally by investment grade quality signatures.
The subordinated debt market is characterised by a strong “euro” bias, resulting from technical factors (European regulatory framework) that favour issuance versus issuing equity to strengthen capital structures. According to Ostrum Asset Management (Ostrum AM), subordinated debt is an instrument which can be used to diversify fixed-income allocations, offering additional yield pick-up. And it can add value to responsible bond allocation as the sustainable subordinated bond market is developing.