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Guide to Risk Reversal

By Dan Miller · March 08, 2022 · 4 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Guide to Risk Reversal

Risk reversal can have two different meanings, depending on the context. From a stock market perspective, it can be a way to hedge a stock position. You can use a risk reversal option strategy to protect either a long or short position and minimize your downside risk.

Risk reversal is also used in foreign exchange trading (forex or FX) with a slightly different definition. There, risk reversal refers to the difference in implied volatility between call and put options. This can give forex traders an idea of the overall market conditions.

What Is Risk Reversal Option Trade?

Risk reversal is an options strategy that allows you to protect either a long or short position in a stock by buying put or call options to hedge your position. If you are long a stock, you can buy a put and sell a call option to protect you against extreme movements in the stock. If you are short a stock, you can use a risk reversal trade by selling a put and buying a call option contract.

How Does Risk Reversal Work?

Here is how a options traders use risk reversal options, and how you might use them to hedge a position that you hold:

Setup

How you set up a risk reversal depends on whether you are long or short the underlying stock. You’ll want to use both a call and put option contract in each case, but which one you sell and which you buy depends on if you are long or short. If you are long a stock, you will hedge by writing a call option and purchasing a put option. If you are short a stock, you will do the opposite — selling a put option and buying a call option that expires at the same time.

Profit/Loss

Let’s examine a scenario where you are long a stock and want to use risk reversal to hedge some of the risk in your position. So you sell an out-of-the-money call option and buy an out-of-the-money put option, usually at a net credit to yourself.

If the stock’s price goes up past the strike price of your call, you will profit based on the increased value of your stock holding. Your maximum loss will come if the stock’s price goes down, but your total can not amount to more than the strike price of the put option that you bought.

Breakeven

Because you generally hold the underlying stock as well as the option when using risk reversal, there is not a specific breakeven price.

Exit Strategy

Often when using a risk reversal strategy, you will keep repeating the process each month as new options expire. That way you can continue to hold the underlying stock and collect the net premium from your options each month. Eventually either your put or call will expire in the money, and you will sell your shares to fulfill your option obligations.

Maintaining a Risk Reversal

Maintaining your risk reversal will depend on the movement of the underlying stock. In an ideal situation, the stock will not make any drastic movements. If the stock’s price closes between the strike price of your call and put option, both will expire worthless. That will allow you to continue to use the risk reversal strategy and collect an additional premium.

Risk Reversal Example

Let’s say you are slightly bullish on a stock ABC that is trading at $80 per share. You own 100 shares of ABC stock and want to protect against risk. You can use the risk reversal strategy by buying a $75 put and selling an $85 call through your brokerage. Prices will vary depending on the delta or theta of the options, but you will likely receive a slight credit.

If the options expire with the stock in between $75 and $85, both financial instruments will expire worthless. Then you can continue the strategy by buying another put and selling another call. If the stock price rises above $85, your call option will be exercised, and you will close your stock position with a slight profit. You are also protected against any downward move of the stock below $75, thus mitigating your downward risk.

Forex Risk Reversal

Risk reversal has a slightly different meaning in the world of foreign exchange trading (forex), having to do with the volatility of out-of-the-money call or put options. A positive risk reversal is when the volatility of call options is higher than that of the corresponding put options. A negative risk reversal is when the volatility of put options is higher than that of call options. This information can help traders decide on which strategies might be more effective.

The Takeaway

The risk reversal options strategy is one method of protecting your investment from unexpected moves. Understanding how different options strategies work can help you learn about the stock market.

While SoFi does not currently offer options trading, it’s a great way to start investing. When you open a brokerage account on the SoFi Invest® investment platform, you can trade stocks online, exchange-traded funds, cryptocurrency, and initial public offerings from your phone or computer.

FAQ

Why is it called risk reversal?

The risk reversal strategy gets its name because it allows investors to mitigate or reverse the risk you have from a long or short stock position. If you’re slightly bullish on a stock, you can use risk reversal to protect you against downward movement on the stock.

How are long and short risk reversal different?

With a long risk reversal, you are hedging against a short position in the underlying stock. You can do this by purchasing a call option and funding that call purchase by selling a put option. In a short risk reversal, you are mitigating the risk of a long position by selling a call and buying a put option.

How can you calculate risk reversal?

In forex trading, you can calculate the risk reversal by looking at the implied volatility of out-of-the-money call and put options. If the volatility of calls is greater than the volatility of the corresponding put option contracts, there is positive risk reversal, and vice versa.


Photo credit: iStock/Likoper

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