Financial instrument

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Financial instrument ( English financial instrument ) is a legal term , with the finance all claims , other assets and liabilities are referred to, the exchange of directly or indirectly payment means have as their object.


These rights or obligations resulting from financial contracts or other financial agreements must always be based on financial facts .

The legal term of the financial instrument came to December 2004 in the German accounting rules only in the only banks in force since January 1991 Determination of § 340c para. 1 HGB on the existence of the income statement as income or expenses of the trading portfolio , the difference amount of all income and expenses from transactions in financial instruments held for trading and trading with precious metals and related income from write-ups and expenses from depreciation is to be shown. However, the HGB left open what exactly was meant by a financial instrument.

The enactment of the Accounting Law Reform Act in January 2005, the term financial instrument first appeared and operational purpose neutral in § § 285 HGB, § 289 HGB and the parallel provisions for the consolidated financial statements ( § 314 HGB, § 315 HGB).


A financial instrument is to IAS 32.11 "a contract that gives rise to a company to a financial asset and the other entity and a financial liability or equity instrument leads." This expresses the fact that both counterparties (a contracting party and its counterparty ) have to exchange corresponding payment flows or consideration .



According to IAS 39.9, financial instruments are alternatively assigned to the following categories when accounting :

A change of category is only possible with a precise reason.

Banking and stock exchange

In banking and stock exchange , the various types of financial instruments are part of the core business . That is why there are detailed advance regulations in banking supervisory law and stock exchange law that apply in all EU member states .


The acquisition and sale of financial instruments in one's own name and for third-party account ( finance commission business ) is a banking transaction in accordance with Section 1 (1) No. 4 KWG , so a banking license is required for this . The assumption of financial instruments at one's own risk for the issue or the assumption of equivalent guarantees ( issuing business ; Section 1 (1) No. 10 KWG) is also considered to be banking business . 11 KWG apply to § 1 as financial instruments. Shares , investments (excluding cooperative shares ) bonds , participation certificates , investment certificates , money market instruments , foreign exchange and unit of account , derivatives , emission and cryptographic values . By taking into account investments, trust assets , participation loans , subordinated loans and registered bonds are also recorded as financial instruments ( Section 1 (2 ) VermAnlG ).

Since precious metals and types are not listed, they are not considered financial instruments, so that exchange offices, for example, are not subject to banking supervision. The deposits with banks ( sight , futures and savings deposits ) are not financial instruments for regulatory purposes, but they are part of the deposit business as banking transactions defined (§ 1 para. 1 No. 1 KWG.). This also applies to loans that are recorded as credit transactions ( money and credit lending ) (Section 1 (1) No. 2 KWG). If deposits with creditors and loans with debtors are reported in the balance sheet, they are considered primary financial instruments for accounting purposes because they represent claims or liabilities. This also applies to accounting at credit institutions.

Stock exchange

According to Section 2 (4) WpHG , financial instruments include securities ( shares , bonds , participation certificates , investment certificates ), money market papers, derivatives, emission certificates and investments. In Section 2 (8) No. 9 WpHG, in addition to bonds and derivatives, structured financial products and emission certificates are also counted among financial instruments. The term “financial instrument” under securities law does not completely match that under banking law, because it ignores financial instruments that are not related to securities.

The list in section 2 of the WpHG has legal consequences, in particular for the activities of investment services companies and investment firms and investment advice for credit institutions, for which a private investor must be given a declaration of suitability in accordance with section 64 (4) of the WpHG prior to buying or selling financial instruments .

economic aspects

Not all financial products and financial contracts are or contain financial instruments. Cooperative shares and registered bonds are financial products, but (under securities law ) not financial instruments. Dieter Farny stressed that insurance is insurance premiums constituted in order investment to operate, making insurance contracts can be interpreted as financial contracts, the probability distributed promise payments of insurance benefits. These financial contracts are not financial instruments either.

Since financial instruments have a value, they have a nominal value or are no- par shares , often also a market value (shares, bonds), often carry a premium or discount and can - but do not have to - bear interest . They are thus subject to market risk ( exchange rate risk , interest rate risk and other price risk ) and represent a financial risk that can manifest itself in an increase in value , a decrease in value or, in the worst case, a total loss . For this reason, the financial instruments for investors are classified in asset classes or the risk attitudes of investors towards financial instruments are classified in risk classes .


The similar term financing instrument covers all measures that can be used to finance companies, which can also include financial instruments (for example, the corporate bond is both a financing instrument and a financial instrument).

Individual evidence

  1. Christian Schwarz, Derivative Financial Instruments and Hedge accounting , 2006, p. 5
  2. Carl-Christian Freidank (Ed.) / Marc Böhlhoff, Vahlens Großes Auditing-Lexikon , 2007, p. 466 ff.
  3. Gerald Preißler / German Figlin, IFRS-Lexikon , 2009, p. 46 ff.
  4. Carl-Christian Freidank (Ed.) / Klaus J. Müller, Vahlens Großes Auditing-Lexikon , 2007, p. 331
  5. Alfred Wagenhofer, International Accounting Standards - IAS / IFRS , 2015, o. P.
  6. Anne Gläßner, The restriction of the distribution of financial products , 2017, p. 190
  7. Dieter Farny, Versicherungsbetriebslehre , 2011, p. 893 f.