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Holding Company Depository Receipt (HOLDR)


A Holding Company Depository Receipt (HOLDR) is a type of financial security issued by the Bank of New York which represents an interest in a basket of stocks of companies in a particular sector or industry. The stocks are held in a trust, but investors can buy and sell HOLDRs on the stock exchange as if they were shares in a single company. It gives investors a way to diversify their holdings and gain exposure to a particular industry with a single investment.


The phonetic pronunciation for the keyword ‘Holding Company Depository Receipt (HOLDR)’ is: ‘hoʊldɪŋ ˈkʌmpəni dɪˈpɒzɪtəri rɪˈsiːt (hoʊldər)’.

Key Takeaways

  1. Asset Concentration: HOLDRs do not track a sector or an index but rather they hold a fixed set of stocks, usually in one sector only. This means they may be heavily concentrated in one or two big companies which can lead to high risk and volatility.
  2. No Management: Unlike mutual funds, ETFs, or closed-end bonds, HOLDRs are not managed. This means there’s no fund manager to maneuver through market conditions, which could result in poor performance in declining market sectors.
  3. Stock Composition: The stock list of a HOLDRs does not change unless a company goes bankrupt or is merged or acquired. This means there’s little flexibility for changing investment strategies and could mean a missed opportunity for higher profits if new, up-and-coming companies in the sector cannot be included in the list.


Holding Company Depository Receipts (HOLDRs) are an important business and finance term because they allow investors a unique way to gain diversified exposure to certain industries or sectors. HOLDRs are a specific type of depositary receipt created by Merrill Lynch (now part of Bank of America) containing a fixed basket of stocks in a particular sector, such as healthcare or telecommunications. By investing in HOLDRs, investors get the opportunity to own shares of different companies within a target industry in a cost-effective and less risky manner. Furthermore, they offer flexibility as the investors can exchange their HOLDRs for the underlying stocks that they represent, providing a level of control over the individual stocks in their portfolio. Thus, HOLDRs are a vital financial instrument in the finance world.


The primary purpose of a Holding Company Depository Receipt (HOLDR) is to give investors a mechanism to buy and sell a basket of stocks in a particular industry or sector, thereby enabling effective diversification. HOLDRs essentially grant investors access to the returns and risks associated with holding a group of stocks in a specific sector. It’s used extensively as an investment vehicle that combines features of a common stock and an exchange-traded fund (ETF). Investors often use HOLDRs to track the performance of a particular industry or a basket of industry-leading companies. It allows them to hold various stocks concurrently which could have taken a considerable amount of time and effort to purchase individually. The investors can gain from potential price appreciation of these stocks and the proportional dividend payments. By diversifying in this manner, they can mitigate some of the risks associated with investing in single stocks, in the event specific company underperforms.


1. Microsoft Corporation HOLDR: Between 1999 and mid-2000, Merrill Lynch launched over a dozen HOLDRS. One of them was for Microsoft Corporation as part of the Software HOLDR. Its operation was similar to an Exchange Traded Fund where investors bought and sold units of the HOLDR on the open market, giving them exposure to the underlying Microsoft shares. 2. Oil Services HOLDR (OIH): This was one of the most popular HOLDRs, it comprised 18 companies in the oil services sector. Some of the largest holdings were companies like Halliburton and Transocean. The OIH structure allowed investors to hold a single security gaining a diversified exposure to the entire oil servicing industry.3. Pharmaceutical HOLDR (PPH): This was another particular example of a HOLDR offering exposure to 20 major pharmaceutical companies including Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer Inc., and Merck & Co. This gave investors the opportunity to invest indirectly in these companies via purchasing the PPH. However, it’s worth mentioning that as of 2011, Merrill Lynch (who issued these financial instruments) has stopped issuing HOLDRs, and most remaining ones have been converted into ETFs due to their more favorable structures such as the ability to rebalance and recreate shares.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Holding Company Depository Receipt (HOLDR)?

A HOLDR is a type of financial instrument issued by a trust that represents an ownership interest in a group of publicly traded shares. Essentially, it’s a basket of stocks that allows investors to buy and sell a group of securities in a single transaction.

How does a HOLDR work?

A HOLDR works in a similar way to an exchange-traded fund (ETF). Investors purchase ownership in a trust, which holds a portfolio of stocks in specific sectors or industries. The HOLDR can then be bought, sold, or even shorted, just like any other stock.

What are the benefits of investing in a HOLDR?

A HOLDR allows investors to diversify their portfolio with a single transaction. Traders can gain exposure to an entire industry or sector without having to buy shares in each individual company. It also saves on transaction costs.

What are the risks associated with HOLDRs?

Like with all investments, there are risks involved. The value of a HOLDR can fluctuate based on the performance of the individual stocks it represents. Additionally, HOLDRs do not always provide the level of diversification one might expect because they can be heavily weighted toward a few large companies.

How can I buy a HOLDR?

You can buy a HOLDR through brokers who offer stocks, ETFs and other exchange-traded products. The process is typically the same as buying individual shares of company stock.

Do HOLDRs pay dividends?

Yes, HOLDRs can pay dividends to investors. The dividends come from the companies whose stocks make up the HOLDR. Different HOLDRs may have different dividend schedules, depending on the stocks they hold.

How do I find out what companies a specific HOLDR invests in?

The companies included in a HOLDR are typically listed on the issuer’s website. They should provide a prospectus that includes a list of all the companies’ stocks included in the HOLDR.

Related Finance Terms

  • Asset Management: This refers to the process by which a company manages the financial assets of another entity or individual, which often includes investments like HOLDRs.
  • Securities: These are tradable financial assets such as bonds, stocks, or HOLDRs. They represent an ownership or creditor relationship with a corporation or government entity.
  • Equity Ownership: This is the claim of a shareholder in the assets and earnings of a corporation. When you own a HOLDR, you own a piece of several different companies’ stocks contained within the HOLDR.
  • Investment Portfolio: The collection of assets held by an individual or institution. A HOLDR is a type of security that can be included in a diverse investment portfolio.
  • Financial Market: A marketplace where buyers and sellers trade assets such as equities, bonds, currencies, derivatives, and securities like HOLDRs.

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