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An indenture, in financial terms, is a legally binding contract between a bond issuer and a bondholder. The contract stipulates all the specific terms of the bond, such as the maturity date, the interest rate, and the payment schedule. It also outlines the issuer’s obligations and the rights of the bondholder.


The phonetics of the word “Indenture” is /ɪnˈdɛn.tʃər/

Key Takeaways

  1. Indenture is a legal and binding contract, often associated with large financial loans or arrangements. These documents spell out the exact terms, conditions, and responsibilities of all involved parties.
  2. In history, Indenture also features prominently in labor contracts where individuals, known as indentured servants, agreed to work for a certain period in exchange for transportation, food, and accommodation. This practice was common from the 16th to the 19th centuries, notably in the colonization of North America.
  3. Modern equivalents of indenture exist in certain financial instruments like bonds, where the bond indenture specifies the interest rates, maturity date, convertibility and other terms. It protects the rights of both lenders and borrowers by enforcing agreed upon terms and conditions.


Indenture is a crucial term in business and finance as it details the legal and binding agreement or contract between two parties, often associated with large financial transactions such as bond issues. Specifically, in finance, an indenture refers to an agreement between the bond issuer and bondholder. It comprehensively outlines the key terms and conditions the bond issuer needs to adhere to, such as principal, coupon rate, maturity date, and covenants. These covenants are protective clauses for the bondholder, which can restrict certain activities or require specific actions from the issuer. Indenture, therefore, provides a structure of rights and obligations, thereby safeguarding the interests of all involved parties. Given its legal enforceability, adherence to the indenture is crucial to ensure the smooth functioning of economic transactions.


The primary purpose of an indenture, in the field of finance and business, is to serve as a legal and binding agreement between two parties, particularly in bond issues. It is a comprehensive document or contract that stipulates all the terms, conditions, and obligations of a bond issuer and a bondholder. This includes interest payments, repayment schedules, collateral, covenants, and even explains procedures to be followed in case of a default. Consequently, it safeguards the interests of both entities by explicitly outlining their rights and responsibilities.

In terms of its use, an indenture plays a critical role in structured finance. It is employed for various debt securities like bonds, debentures, and loans. Put simply, when an organization plans to raise capital through the issuance of bonds or other forms of securities, they formulate an indenture that becomes the guiding document for the entire process. Furthermore, the trustee, who is typically a bank or a trust company acting in the best interest of the bondholders, is appointed through the indenture. As a result, an indenture imparts transparency and trust in financial transactions, ensuring that both parties abide by the agreed-upon stipulations.


1. Corporate Bonds: A well-known example of an indenture in the business world is found in corporate bonds. When a company wants to raise funds, it can issue bonds that investors buy. The terms and conditions of these bonds, such as the repayment schedule, interest rate, and any covenants or clauses, are set out in an indenture. This indenture serves as the contract between the company (the issuer) and the bond holder (the investor).

2. Real Estate Loans: In the field of real estate, a mortgage indenture is another example. This is the legal agreement between a borrower and a lender that allows the lender to take possession of a property if the borrower doesn’t meet the terms of the agreement, such as failing to make payments on time.

3. Trusteeship Agreements: In financial sector, an indenture can be spotted in trusteeship agreements. For instance, if a corporation issues a series of bonds, a trustee (usually a bank) could be appointed to protect the interests of the bondholders in accordance with an indenture agreement. This agreement would outline the duties and responsibilities of the trustee, as well as the rights and obligations of the bondholders.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is an indenture in finance?

An indenture is a legal document that details the rights and responsibilities of parties involved in a bond agreement, including the terms, clauses and covenants under which a bond has been issued.

What information is typically included in an indenture?

An indenture typically includes the bond’s maturity date, the coupon rate, any collateral used, and details the specific terms of repayment and covenants to be followed by the bond issuer.

Who are the parties involved in an indenture?

The two main parties involved in an indenture are the issuer of the bond (usually a corporation or government entity) and the bondholder. A trustee is also appointed to act on behalf of the bondholders.

What does the trustee do in an indenture agreement?

The trustee’s duty is to enforce the terms of the indenture on behalf of the bondholders. If the issuer fails to adhere to its obligations, it falls to the trustee to take legal action on behalf of the bondholders.

How does an indenture protect bondholders?

An indenture serves as a layer of protection for bondholders. The terms and covenants in the document provide a legal framework that the issuer is obliged to follow, ensuring that the bondholders’ investment is protected and their rights are enforced.

What does a ‘breach of indenture’ mean? How does it affect bondholders?

A breach of indenture occurs when the terms and conditions outlined in the indenture are not followed by the bond issuer. This could lead to legal action, wherein the trustee or bondholders may sue the issuer for damages or even take control of any collateral pledged under the agreement.

What are examples of covenants in indentures?

Examples of covenants in indentures include restrictions on issuing more debt, requirements for maintaining certain liquidity ratios, or limits on paying dividends to shareholders, among others.

Is an indenture necessary for every bond issued?

While it is legally required for public bond issues in many jurisdictions, including the United States, not all bond agreements require a formal indenture, especially for smaller, private issues. However, it’s often considered best practice and serves as a significant layer of security for bondholders.

Related Finance Terms

  • Trustee: An entity who manages the assets and ensures the terms mentioned in the indenture (contract) are adhered to.
  • Covenants: Stipulations outlined in the indenture which the borrower must comply with.
  • Debenture: A type of debt instrument which is not backed by physical asset or collateral, but secured only by the issuer’s promise to pay the debt.
  • Bond: A type of debt security, often associated with indenture contract, which entails the issuer (borrower) is obliged to pay back the principal amount along with interest to the lender.
  • Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC): The regulatory body which oversees and regulates the issuance and reporting of corporate securities, including those bound by an indenture agreement.

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