A form of collateralized debt obligation (CDO) that invests in credit default swaps (CDSs) or other non-cash assets to gain exposure to a portfolio of fixed income assets. Synthetic CDOs are typically divided into credit tranches based on the level of credit risk assumed. Initial investments into the CDO are made by the lower tranches, while the senior tranches may not have to make an initial investment.
All tranches will receive periodic payments based on the cash flows from the credit default swaps. If a credit event occurs in the fixed income portfolio, the synthetic CDO and its investors become responsible for the losses, starting from the lowest rated tranches and working its way up.