Complete Guide to the Debt Capital Market

Updated on May 24, 2023

At a Glance: The Debt Capital Market (DCM) is a financial market where companies, governments, and other entities can raise capital by issuing debt securities, such as bonds and notes, to investors. The DCM is an important source of funding for companies and governments as it allows them to access a pool of investors who are willing to lend them money in exchange for regular interest payments and eventual repayment of the principal. The DCM works with the help of investment banks, rating agencies, and a secondary market. Debt securities typically offer a lower cost of capital than equity securities because they have a lower risk profile, making them a preferred option for raising large amounts of capital.

When building any fintech lending startup, one area founders must know, inside and out, is the Debt Capital Market. 

The Debt Capital Market, or DMC, provides companies, fintech and otherwise, and governments with a means of raising capital by issuing debt securities such as bonds and notes to investors. The DMC servers a number of functions that are crucial to startups’ success in fundraising. 

But what is the Debt Capital Market and how does it work? How is it different from the Equity Capital Market and what are the DCM’s advantages and disadvantages? 

All of these questions and more are answered in detail below. Read on to learn more!

What is the Debt Capital Market?

The DCM is a financial market designed to connect companies, like fintech startups, with other entities to raise capital through debt securities (such as notes or bonds) to investors. Those debt securities, then, act as IOUs in which the companies agree to pay back the borrowed amount plus interest by a specified date or over a period of time. 

How Does the DCM Impact Fintech Startups

For startups that raise capital through the DCM, there are potential positives and negatives. A number of factors, including business model, what stage the startup is at, and prevailing market conditions, can impact how these effects play out. 

Here are some common ways in which the DCM can impact fintech startups:

  • Access to Capital: One of the ways the DCM helps startups is by offering an additional source of funding to help drive growth. Early stage startups benefit the most from this access to capital, especially if they have not secured other sources of funding, let venture capital, yet. 
  • Cost of Capital: For fintechs with a solid business plan and track record, the DCM represents a cost-effective way to raise capital compared to equity financing. The opposite, however, is true for younger, less establish startups. You can read more about the real cost of debt capital here.
  • Competition: Established financial institutions (such as banks) also have access to capital on the DCM. Because these institutions are established, their access to capital and reputation net them an advantage over startups. But for startups with a unique business model or truly innovative technology, this is less of a concern.
  • Investor Perception: There’s a direct correlation between how investors see startups in terms of risk and how much success fintechs can have on the DCM. Investors can see less established companies as higher-risk, and those companies may find lower demand for their securities and higher interest rates when there is demand. 
  • Regulatory Environment: Fintech is easily one of the most highly regulated areas of the financial sector. To take part in the DCM, startups need to comply with a wide range of rules and regulations related to issuing debt securities. Keeping up with these regulations costs startups time and money, two of their most limited resources. 

How Does the Debt Capital Market Work?

In the DCM, companies, governments, and other entities issue debt securities, such as bonds and notes, to investors willing to lend them money in exchange for regular interest payments and the eventual repayment of the principal. Here’s how the DCM process plays out in terms of players and steps:

  1. Issuers
  2. Investment Banks
  3. Raging Agencies
  4. Secondary Market
  5. Coupon Payments
  6. Maturity

Below, we’ll take a closer look at how each of these works within the DCM. 


Companies and governments looking to raise capital will issue debt securities, such as bonds and notes. These securities are sold to investors, who provide the capital needed.

Investment Banks

Investment banks act as intermediaries between issuers and investors. They help issuers to structure their debt securities and to determine the appropriate interest rate to pay investors. They also underwrite the offering by purchasing the securities from the issuer and then selling them to investors.

Rating Agencies

Rating agencies provide credit ratings to startups based on creditworthiness and investors using these ratings to assess risk when investing in an issuer’s debt securities.

Secondary Market

Once a fintech issues debt securities, those securities can then be purchased on the secondary market, which offers flexibility to investors. As a result, investors can sell holdings before maturity (offering more liquidity) and new investors have more opportunities to buy securities. 

Coupon Payments

Issuers make regular interest payments to investors, usually semi-annually or annually, based on the coupon rate specified in the bond or note. These payments are a fixed amount or a percentage of the face value of the security.


When a security hits maturity, the fintech (or other issuers) repays the face value of the security to the investor. Depending on the type of security, maturity can take anywhere from a few months to several decades. 

Debt Capital Market vs. Equity Capital Market

Like the Debt Capital Market, the Equity Capital Market represents another option for fintechs to source funding, but there are some key differences between the ECM and the DCM. 

The main difference is how investors are compensated. In the DCM, investors are repaid for their funding in the form of interest. With the ECM, however, investors are issued shares of stock in a company and are part owners of the company. Instead of interest, investors in the ECM received a share of the company’s profits in the form of dividends.

Another key difference between the ECM and the DCM is that equity investors, by the nature of their relationship with startups, take on higher risk. As a result, they require more insurance from the startup in the form of partial ownership. This makes the cost of capital much more significant that in the DCM.  

This capital can be used to fund growth and expansion or to pay down debt. The ECM operates alongside the DCM, where companies can raise capital by issuing debt securities such as bonds and notes, but the ECM typically offers a higher cost of capital due to the increased risk associated with equity securities.

The table below offers a succinct overview of the key differences between the DCM and ECM:

AspectDebt Capital MarketEquity Capital Market
OwnershipInvestors lend money to issuersInvestors buy shares representing ownership
Risk and ReturnLess risky with a fixed rate of return and maturity dateRiskier with no guaranteed return
Cost of CapitalLower cost due to lower riskHigher cost due to higher risk
ControlNo control over managementCan influence management through voting rights
DurationFixed duration with a maturity dateNo maturity date and can be held indefinitely

In short, the DCM and ECM serve different purposes and appeal to different types of investors. The DCM is typically used for long-term financing and is suited to investors who prefer a steady income stream with lower risk. The ECM is used for shorter-term financing and is suited to investors who are willing to take on more risk in exchange for potentially higher returns.

What are Debt Instruments?

Debt instruments are financial instruments that represent a contractual obligation by one party, usually a borrower, to repay a loan to another party, usually a lender, over a specified period of time. The most common types of debt instruments include:

  • Bonds
  • Notes
  • Bills
  • Commercial Paper

These instruments typically pay a fixed rate of interest to the lender, and the principal amount is repaid at maturity. Debt instruments can be issued by governments, corporations, and other organizations as a means of raising capital.

Debt instruments are generally considered less risky than equity instruments, such as stocks, because the lender has a legal claim on the assets of the borrower in the event of default. However, the value of debt instruments can also be affected by changes in interest rates, credit ratings, and other factors that affect the creditworthiness of the borrower.

Below, we’ll take a closer look at each of the key debt instruments. 


Bonds are debt securities issued by companies, governments, and other organizations to raise capital. Bonds have a fixed maturity date and pay a fixed rate of interest to the investor, usually semi-annually or annually. When the bond matures, the issuer repays the principal amount to the investor.


Notes are similar to bonds but have a shorter maturity period, typically ranging from one to ten years. Notes can be issued by companies or governments and may be unsecured or secured by collateral.


Bills, or Treasury bills, are short-term debt securities that are issued by the government to finance short-term expenses. Bills have a maturity period of one year or less and are typically sold at a discount to their face value. The difference between the discounted price and the face value is the interest earned by the investor.

Commercial Paper

Commercial paper is a short-term debt security issued by corporations to finance short-term expenses, such as inventory or payroll. Commercial paper typically has a maturity period of 30 to 270 days and is unsecured. Commercial paper is sold at a discount to its face value, and the difference between the discounted price and the face value represents the interest earned by the investor.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Debt Capital Markets

As with any investment-based relationship, the DCM comes with advantages and disadvantages for issues and investors. 


Lower Cost of CapitalX
Tax DeductibilityX
Fixed IncomeX
Lower RiskX

Advantages for Fintechs Explained

  1. Debt securities offer a, relatively, inexpensive cost of capital. This is because they are lower-risk and less expensive to issue. As a result, they are an attractive option for startups looking to raise funds. 
  2. Debt securities also offer flexibility in their structures that make it easier to meet the specific needs of issuers and investors. Startups can customize the securities to match factors like their financial situation and market conditions. 
  3. The Interest payments made on debt securities by startups are tax-deductible. This reduces the after-tax cost of borrowing, making it a cost-effective source of funding.

Advantages for Investors Explained

  1. Debt securities can act as, essentially, a fixed income stream. This can be useful for investors who want to diversify their portfolios. It can also be an also a good option for investors who are nearing retirement and want a reliable source of income. 
  2. Investing in debt securities can provide diversification benefits to an investor’s portfolio. Because debt securities are less risky than equity securities, they are less susceptible to market volatility. 
  3. Debt securities offer lower risk than equity securities, as they have a lower risk profile. 


Risk of DefaultX
Limited Potential for Capital AppreciationX
Interest Rate RiskX
Inflation RiskX

Advantages for Fintechs Explained

  1. Issuers must make regular interest payments and repay the principal amount at maturity, which can be challenging if the issuer experiences financial difficulties or default. This can result in negative consequences such as a downgrade in credit ratings or even bankruptcy. 
  2. Debt securities may come with covenants that limit the issuer’s flexibility and impose additional costs. These covenants may restrict the issuer’s ability to undertake certain activities or make certain decisions, which can be limiting and potentially harmful to the issuer’s operations.

Advantages for Investors Explained

  1. Debt securities do not offer the potential for capital appreciation, unlike equity securities. This means that investors cannot benefit from an increase in the value of the securities, which can be a disadvantage for those looking for long-term investment growth. 
  2. Changes in interest rates can affect the value of debt securities, especially long-term securities. This is known as interest rate risk and can result in a decrease in the value of the securities. 
  3. Inflation can erode the value of the interest income received from debt securities, which is known as inflation risk. 

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the Debt Capital Market plays a vital role in the global economy as a means of raising capital for companies and governments and offers various advantages such as a lower cost of capital, flexibility, and tax deductibility. It is also an opportunity for investors to earn a steady income stream, diversify their portfolio, and benefit from lower risk than equity securities. However, the DCM is not without its disadvantages, such as the risk of default, covenants, and limited potential for capital appreciation. As with any investment decision, careful consideration of all the factors involved is necessary to make informed choices in the DCM.

Debt Capital Market FAQ

Below, you’ll find several frequently asked questions about the debt capital market. 

What is the difference between the primary and secondary markets in the Debt Capital Market?

The primary market refers to the initial sale of debt securities by issuers to investors, whereas the secondary market is where already-issued securities are bought and sold among investors. In the primary market, the issuer sets the price and interest rate of the security, while in the secondary market, the price is determined by supply and demand.

What factors affect the interest rate on debt securities?

Several factors can affect the interest rate on debt securities, including the creditworthiness of the issuer, market conditions, inflation expectations, and the term and structure of the security. Investors will typically demand a higher interest rate for riskier securities or for securities with longer maturities.

How are debt securities rated, and why is credit rating important?

Debt securities are rated by independent rating agencies based on the issuer’s creditworthiness and ability to repay the debt. A higher credit rating generally indicates a lower risk of default and can lead to lower interest rates for the issuer. Credit rating is important for investors as it provides a measure of the risk associated with investing in a particular security.

How does the Debt Capital Market differ from the Equity Capital Market?

The Debt Capital Market allows issuers to raise capital by issuing debt securities, while the Equity Capital Market allows issuers to raise capital by issuing shares of ownership in the company. Debt securities typically offer a lower cost of capital and less risk than equity securities but do not provide investors with ownership rights or the potential for capital appreciation.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of investing in debt securities?

Advantages of investing in debt securities include a fixed income stream, lower risk than equity securities, and the potential for diversification in an investment portfolio. Disadvantages can include the risk of default, limited potential for capital appreciation, and interest rate and inflation risks. Investors should carefully consider these factors when deciding whether to invest in debt securities.

Frank Gogol

A seasoned SEO expert, Frank has a long history of working with and for startups. Starting in mid-2018, Frank served as the SEO Strategist for Stilt, a fintech startup that provided fair loans for immigrants in the US and other underserved markets. While with the company, he scaled site traffic from zero to more than 1.5 million unique visits per month, driving the bulk of the company’s lead generation until it was acquired by J.G. Wentworth in December 2022. As employee #5 at Stilt, Frank was witness to, and part of, the successful building and sale of a fintech company, uniquely positioning him to create content for founders about all things startups.