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Exchange Traded Notes: Definition & Meaning

ETNs or Exchange Traded Notes are an important element of economic trading and investment. Understanding the various aspects of exchange-traded notes (ETNs) is crucial for anybody interested in deepening their business studies or becoming a finance expert, especially with the introduction of increasingly complicated financial products. These are distinct investment tools that combine aspects of bonds and ETFs or exchange traded funds. ETNs offer investors a wide range of assets, including stocks, commodities, currencies and much more, without directing them. This article explores the meaning, benefits and risks associated with ETNs for better understanding. 

What is exchange traded notes?

Debt instruments known as Exchange-Traded Notes (ETNs) are issued by financial institutions, most commonly banks. Instead of paying interest regularly and returning the principal when the bond matures, exchange-traded notes track the performance of an index, asset, or strategy. Since they are unsecured debt obligations, investors must depend on the issuer’s creditworthiness to back their money.

It has a set maturity time, usually between ten and thirty years. On stock exchanges like the National Stock Exchange or the Bombay Stock Exchange, the different ETNs are listed. ETNs are traded depending on supply and demand.

For better comprehension, here is an exchange traded notes example:

Let’s say you buy an ETN that tracks the S&P 500 index’s performance. 

If the ETN has a 1% fee and the index rises by 10% during a given time period, your investment would gain by about.

 (10% – 1%) = 9%

On the other hand, if the S&P 500 fell by 10%, your ETN value would probably decrease by about. 

(10% + 1%) = 11%

How do exchange traded notes work?

Although Exchange Traded Notes may initially seem confusing, their premise is simple. They provide investors with access to market indexes encompassing non-traditional asset classes, such as currencies or commodities, as well as specialist sectors. ETNs are essentially a type of bond. Upon maturity, the exchange-traded fund (ETN) will reimburse the index return. Unlike bonds, however, ETNs do not pay interest. 

After deducting costs, the financial institution pays the investor cash when the ETN matures, with the amount determined by the index’s performance. Because ETNs trade on well-known exchanges like stocks, investors can buy and sell them and profit from the difference between the purchase and selling prices, reducing any costs. ETNs only pay investors the return that the index generates; they do not grant investors ownership of the securities.

What is an inverse exchange traded note?

An inverse ETN is a tool for investors who want to bet on decreasing prices or hedge against downturns by trying to profit from falls in the underlying market. An inverse exchange traded note and a standard exchange traded note differ primarily in their investing goals and approaches to market fluctuations. An underlying index or asset’s performance is tracked by a regular ETN, which enables investors to profit when the benchmark’s value rises. An inverse ETN, on the other hand, is intended to offer returns that are negatively associated with the performance of the underlying asset or index. 

Advantages of exchange traded notes

Investors may think about investing in ETNs for a variety of reasons. Apart from having the ability to trade debt assets like stocks and ETFs, the main reasons also include the following:

  • Significant tax advantages: Investors only pay taxes when their exchange-traded notes (ETNs) mature or are sold on the exchange, as ETNs typically do not pay regular dividends. This implies that if an investment is sold within a year of its purchase, all proceeds are taxed as long-term capital gains, which have a lower rate than short-term capital gains. 
  • Planning and market accessibility: When using traditional investment methods, retail investors might not have access to all markets and strategies. Thanks to ETNs, investors who might not have been able to use these techniques otherwise may be able to do so.
  • Performance monitoring: An exchange traded note does not possess any underlying assets. Unlike exchange-traded funds, it doesn’t need to be rebalanced. The value of the asset class or index that the ETN is tracking is mirrored.

What are the risks associated with exchange traded notes?

ETNs offer several benefits for investors and traders. However, there are a few exchange-traded notes risks that you should be aware of before investing. 

  • Credit risk: Since ETNs represent the issuer’s unsecured debt obligations, investors are subject to the issuer’s credit risk. Investors could not get their entire return if the issuer defaults or runs into financial trouble. 
  • Market risk: An ETN’s value is directly correlated with the performance of its underlying asset or index. The ETN’s value may decrease if the underlying market experiences volatility or a downturn. 
  • Liquidity risk: This is another major risk associated with exchange traded notes. Even though ETNs are traded on exchanges, investor demand and market conditions can affect liquidity. Investors may occasionally have trouble obtaining the prices they want when purchasing or selling ETNs.
  • Tracking error: Due to several factors, such as fees, expenditures, and trading dynamics, exchange trade market notes may not precisely track the performance of their underlying index. When the ETN’s returns diverge from the index it seeks to duplicate, this may lead to a tracking mistake. 
  • Redemption risk: Although exchange trade market notes are often meant to be held until they mature, investors have the option to sell them before then. If the market isn’t doing well, investors who sell ETNs before they mature risk losing money.


Exchange-traded notes (ETNs) provide an effective and adaptable approach to accessing various assets and investing strategies. They are appealing choices for portfolio diversification because they offer the advantages of tax efficiency, liquidity, and diversification. Nonetheless, it is imperative that you comprehend the dangers connected to ETNs, such as credit risk, market risk, and liquidity risk. 


 What is an exchange traded note?

Securities that reflect an underlying index of securities and trade on a major exchange, like stocks, are exchange-traded notes (ETNs). ETNs are a sort of unsecured debt security.

Who issued exchange traded notes?

ETNs are usually issued by prominent banks or financial institutions.

Which is the most significant exchange traded note?

As of 2024, with nearly $3 billion in assets, the JPMorgan Alerian MLP ETN (AMJ) is the biggest ETN available. On Wall Street, master limited partnerships, or MLPs, are a distinct asset class since they are organised like partnerships rather than ordinary stock.

What is the advantage of an exchange traded note?

ETNS offer significant tax benefits, market access and performance tracking. Further, if the note’s index is higher when the ETN matures, the investor may see a return on their investment. Since ETNs are not short-term investments, they are not liable to the capital gains tax on short-term gains.

 Are exchange traded notes risky?

An ETN is a bank-issued unsecured debt note. Like a bond, it can be bought and sold at any time or held until maturity. However, the investor risks losing their entire investment if the underwriter, typically a bank, files for bankruptcy.

Are there liquidity risks associated with exchange traded notes?

Regular interest payments are not made on exchange traded notes. Because principal repayment depends on the issuer’s financial stability, exchange traded notes have a default risk. Low trading volume may lead to ETN prices trading at a premium.

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