ISDA IBOR Fallbacks

On 23 October 2020, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (‘ISDA’) finalised a supplement to the 2006 ISDA Definitions (the ‘ISDA IBOR Supplement’) and published the ISDA 2020 IBOR Fallbacks Protocol (the ‘ISDA IBOR Protocol’). They both took effect on 25 January 2021.

The IBOR Fallbacks Supplement includes new contractual fallback provisions (‘ISDA Fallbacks’) that will take effect for derivatives contracts referencing in-scope IBOR rates (‘Covered Contracts’) upon certain index cessation events (‘ISDA Triggers’).

ISDA triggers are set

On 5 March 2021, the FCA announced that all LIBOR settings for all currencies will either cease or no longer be representative immediately after the following dates:

  • 31 December 2021, for GBP, EUR, CHF and JPY LIBOR in all tenors, and USD LIBOR 1-week and 2-month; and
  • 30 June 2023, for USD Overnight, 1-month, 3-month, 6-month and 12-month.

Following the FCA announcement, ISDA stated that this constituted an index cessation event (‘ISDA trigger’) for all 35 LIBOR settings. Therefore, the ISDA Fallbacks will automatically apply to covered contracts on the aforementioned trigger dates.

ISDA fallbacks

Covered Contracts will fall back to the RFR in the same currency (SONIA, SOFR, SARON, TONAR or €STR). The RFR will be adjusted by being compounded in arrears for the relevant term to reflect the fact that IBORs are term rates whereas RFRs are overnight rates. A fixed Spread Adjustment called five-year historical median will be added to that adjusted RFR, which is intended to reflect that IBORs include a degree of bank credit risk absent in RFRs.

Following the FCA announcement (see above), the five-year historical median spread adjustments for LIBOR in its five currencies and all settings were fixed as of Friday 5 March 2021. The final spread adjustments for each combination of currency and tenor have been published by Bloomberg.

ISDA IBOR Supplement

Upon the ISDA triggers, the ISDA Fallbacks will automatically apply to covered contracts incorporating the 2006 ISDA Definitions entered into from 25 January 2021.

ISDA IBOR Protocol

Derivative transactions incorporating the 2006 ISDA Definitions entered into prior to the Effective Date will not automatically include the new fallback provisions unless the parties agree otherwise.

ISDA has published the IBOR Fallbacks Protocol to enable parties to amend those existing derivative transactions as well as other specified documents which reference in-scope IBOR rates to include the updated rates and fallbacks.

If you do not adhere to the IBOR Fallbacks Protocol or otherwise bilaterally include robust fallbacks in derivatives documentation, existing fallbacks may not operate adequately or at all to allow parties to identify a fallback rate in the absence of a relevant IBOR.

Adhering to the ISDA 2020 IBOR Fallbacks Protocol.

You should assess how IBORs are used in all your financial products and services with HSBC and any other counterparty as well as which of them would be covered by the IBOR Fallbacks Protocol. You should consult with your professional advisers on these changes as they can have economic and other impacts, including giving rise to potential mismatches between loans and derivatives or affecting any hedge accounting treatment applicable to those products.

By way of illustration, here are some implications of adhering to the IBOR Fallbacks Protocol:

  • Mismatches may arise if a derivative transaction is used to hedge a product (e.g. a loan or a bond) which does not itself deal with the discontinuation of the relevant IBOR and the non-representativeness of LIBOR in the same way as the derivative transaction or at all (e.g. there are different trigger events or fallbacks).
  • The new contractual fallback provisions may impact the commercial effect of non-linear interest rate derivative transactions (e.g. in-arrears swaps, certain cross-currency swap products, interest rate caps and floors and range accrual products).
  • Adherence to the IBOR Fallbacks Protocol has the effect of an amendment to an existing ISDA Master Agreement or other covered agreement. You must ensure that you have obtained any required consent, approval, agreement, authorisation or other required action before signing up to or adopting the terms of the IBOR Fallbacks Protocol.

This article is a non-exhaustive summary for your information only and does not constitute any form of advice or recommendation.

We encourage you to read ISDA’s documents, together with the accompanying explanatory information on the ISDA website that will help you to familiarise yourself with the operation of the IBOR Fallbacks Supplement and the IBOR Fallbacks Protocol. You should also to seek guidance from your professional advisors on the possible implications of the changes outlined in this article for your business including financial, legal, accounting and tax impacts.

1 RFRs are typically backward-looking overnight rates based on actual transactions and reflect the average of the interest rates that certain financial institutions pay to borrow overnight either on an unsecured basis from wholesale market participants (for unsecured RFRs, such as SONIA) or the average rate paid on secured overnight repurchase or “repo” transactions (for secured RFRs, such as SOFR). RFRs do not include or imply any credit or term premium of the type seen in LIBOR or EURIBOR. However, RFRs are not truly free of risk. RFR’s can rise or fall as a result of changing economic conditions and central bank policy decisions.

2 Sterling LIBOR, Swiss Franc LIBOR, US Dollar LIBOR, Euro LIBOR, EURIBOR, Yen LIBOR, Yen TIBOR, Euroyen TIBOR, the Bank Bill Swap Rate, the Canadian Dollar Offered Rate, the Hong Kong Interbank Offered Rate, the Singapore Dollar Swap Offer Rate and the Thai Baht Interest Rate Fixing.

Frequently Asked Questions


HSBC Group makes no representation or warranty with respect to the accuracy or completeness of this document. Unless agreed otherwise or required by applicable law or regulation, we are not providing any advice or recommendation or offering any product or service in this document nor are we assuming any responsibility to provide advice. Any action that you take (or fail to take) in relation to the IBOR Fallbacks Protocol is your own decision and we assume no liability in relation to this. As the content of this document is complex, we would encourage you to read the documents published by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association thoroughly and obtain any professional advice as you may deem necessary or appropriate for your specific circumstances.

Except in the case of fraudulent misrepresentation, no liability is accepted whatsoever for any direct, indirect or consequential loss arising from the use of this document. HSBC is under no obligation to keep current the information in this document. Neither HSBC nor any of its affiliates are responsible for providing you with legal, tax or other specialist advice and you should make your own arrangements in respect of this accordingly. This is not a financial promotion. Unless governing law permits otherwise, you must contact a HSBC Group member in your home jurisdiction if you wish to use HSBC Group services.


Last updated: 16 March 2021