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Risk Reversal


Risk reversal is a strategy used in foreign exchange (Forex) trading and commodity trading which involves simultaneously buying and selling call and put options with the same expiration dates but different strike prices. The objective is to protect against adverse price movements in the underlying asset. Essentially, it’s a method used to hedge or speculate on the directional movement of an asset’s price.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Risk Reversal” is: rɪsk rɪˈvɜːsəl.

Key Takeaways

1. Risk Reversal is a Strategy Used in Options Trading: Risk reversal is predominantly a strategy used in options trading to help protect against downside risks. It involves an investor selling one option and buying another at the same time, with the aim of creating a “zero cost” trading scenario. This strategy essentially becomes a hedge against unfavorable price movements in the underlying asset.

2. It Involves the Simultaneous Purchase and Sale of Options: Risk reversal typically involves the simultaneous purchase of a call option and the sale of a put option, or vice versa. The aim is to benefit from a bullish market move or protect from a bearish market move without tying up a lot of capital. It’s a way of transferring the risk from one party to another.

3. It’s Not Suitable for Beginners: It’s crucial to understand that risk reversal is a complex strategy that requires a deep understanding of options trading. It’s generally not recommended for beginners as the strategy could result in substantial losses if not managed appropriately. Therefore, adequate knowledge and experience are required to effectively use this strategy.


Risk reversal is a critical concept in the business and finance world mainly because it is used as a measure of the disparity in the volatility, or market’s risk perception, between similar call and put options. It is a strategy used by investors and traders to protect against unfavorable movements in the price of an asset, essentially reversing the risk they face. By using a combination of purchasing and selling options, investors can either hedge existing positions or speculate on future movements, making it a valuable tool in portfolio management. Its importance also lies in its ability to indicate market sentiment and potential price movements, providing crucial information for investment decisions.


Risk reversal is primarily used as a strategy in options trading to protect against unfavorable price movements. Its main purpose is to serve as a hedge against the potential risks associated with a specific investment. In other words, it is designed to limit an investor’s exposure to possible financial loss. This strategy involves the simultaneous purchase and sale of options on the same asset with the same expiration date, but at different strike prices. Typically, an investor would buy a call option (the right to buy an asset at a future date at a predetermined price) and sell a put option (the right to sell an asset at a future date at a predetermined price).The intent of risk reversal is not necessarily to generate profit, but rather to safeguard an existing investment position against unfavorable market movements. In the world of commodities, for instance, a trader may utilize a risk reversal strategy to protect against a steep drop in the price of a commodity they own, or conversely, to protect against a sharp rise in the cost of a commodity they need. While this strategy can help reduce the financial risk to the holder, it does require an advanced understanding of options trading and is typically utilized by experienced investors or businesses.


1. Hedging Risk in Commodity Markets: A classic example can be seen in the commodity markets where a farmer may use risk reversal as a strategy to protect himself against dramatic price changes in the market. Suppose a wheat farmer, in anticipation of a good harvest season, is concerned that the price of wheat may decrease substantially when it’s time to sell. The farmer could enter into a risk reversal strategy where he sells a put option (gives someone else the right to sell) on the wheat at a particular price while simultaneously buying a call option (the right to buy) on the same quantity of wheat. This gives him the potential to benefit if wheat prices rise significantly, while protecting him from substantial losses if wheat prices fall.2. FX Risk Reversal in International Business: Risk reversal is a commonly used strategy in the foreign exchange market. For example, a U.S business that is anticipating a large payment from a client in Euros might be concerned about the potential depreciation of the Euro against the U.S. Dollar. So, the business could enter into a risk reversal contract, where they buy a call option on the Euro and sell a put option on the Euro at the same time, ensuring that the business is protected against adverse currency movements but can still benefit from favorable ones. 3. Mitigating Investment Risks in Stock Market: An investor in a volatile market, who is worried about a significant decline in the value of their stock holdings, might utilize a risk reversal to protect their investments. They could sell a call option on their stock (giving someone else the right to buy their stock at a specific price), giving them the premium. Simultaneously, they can use that premium to buy a put option (the right to sell the stock at a specific price) – this way, if the stock price declines significantly, they can sell the stock for the higher strike price of the put option, limiting their potential losses while also giving them the ability to benefit if the stock’s price significantly increases.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Risk Reversal?

A risk reversal is a hedging strategy in the financial markets where an investor protects a long or short position by using put and call options. This strategy is designed to simulate the profit and loss profile of a similar direct investment, but without requiring the investor to commit the full capital to the investment.

How does a Risk Reversal strategy work?

In the context of foreign exchange markets, an investor using a risk reversal strategy would buy a call option and sell a put option on the same currency pair. The objective is to hedge against price movements in either direction.

What is the purpose of a Risk Reversal?

The goal of a risk reversal is to hedge against adverse price movements in an investor’s core holdings. It can also be used to express a bullish or bearish view on the underlying asset without having to invest directly in it.

Are there any disadvantages to using a Risk Reversal strategy?

As with any strategy involving derivatives, risk reversals carry a certain level of risk. If the investor misjudges the market direction, they could lose the premium paid for the options. Additionally, this strategy requires some level of expertise to implement successfully.

How much does it cost to implement a Risk Reversal strategy?

The cost of implementing a risk reversal strategy will depend on a number of factors, including the strike prices chosen, the expiry date of the options, and the volatility of the underlying asset.

What is a Risk Reversal in relation to the Volatility Smile?

In the context of the volatility smile, a risk reversal is the difference in implied volatility between similar call and put options. The term risk reversal is also used to refer to a measure of the skewness of the distribution of returns of an underlying asset.

Is a Risk Reversal strategy suitable for all types of investors?

A risk reversal strategy may not be suitable for all investors. It is typically used by more sophisticated investors who have a deep understanding of options pricing and market dynamics. Less experienced investors might find this strategy complex and difficult to manage.

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