Nov 27

Risk Management

Any transaction or behaviour, whether it is buying, selling or instigating in a manner to willfully produce an abnormal effect on prices and/or volumes, goes against the very fundamental objective of the securities markets. Market integrity is the essence of any financial market. Here the risk management system plays a crucial role.

But risk taking is essential to an active market and regulation should not unnecessarily stifle legitimate risk taking. Rather, regulators should promote and allow for the effective management of risk and ensure that capital and other prudential requirements are sufficient to address appropriate risk taking, allow the absorption of some losses and check excessive risk taking. An efficient and accurate clearing and settlement process that is properly supervised and utilizes effective risk management tools is essential. An efficient risk management system is integral to an efficient settlement system.

The anonymous electronic order book ushered in by the exchanges did not permit members to assess credit risk of the counter-party necessitated some innovation in this area. To effectively address this issue, NSE introduced the concept of a novation, and set up the first clearing corporation, viz. National Securities Clearing Corporation Ltd. (NSCCL), which commenced operations in April 1996. The NSCCL assures the counterparty risk of each member and guarantees financial settlement.

Counterparty risk is guaranteed through a fine tuned risk management system and an innovative method of on-line position monitoring and automatic disablement. NSCCL established a Settlement Guarantee Fund (SGF). The SGF provides a cushion for any residual risk and operates like a self-insurance mechanism wherein the members contribute to the fund. In the event of failure of a trading member to meet his obligations, the fund is utilized to the extent required for successful completion of the settlement. This has eliminated counter-party risk of trading on the Exchange.

Systemic risk arises when failure of one of the parties to discharge his obligations leads to failure by other parties. The domino effect of successive failures can cause a failure of the settlement system. These risks have been contained by enforcement of an elaborate margining and capital adequacy standards to secure market integrity, settlement guarantee funds to provide counter-party guarantee, legal backing for settlement activities and business continuity plan, etc.

Reduction of Systemic Risk

Although regulators cannot be expected to prevent the financial failure of market intermediaries, regulation should aim to reduce the risk of failure (including through capital and internal control requirements). Where financial failure nonetheless does occur, regulation should seek to reduce the impact of that failure, and, in particular, attempt to isolate the risk to the failing institution.

Market intermediaries should, therefore, be subject to adequate and ongoing capital and other prudential requirements. If necessary, an intermediary should be able to wind down its business without loss to its customers and counterparties or systemic damage.

There must be effective and legally secure arrangements for default handling. This is a matter that extends beyond securities law to the insolvency provisions of a jurisdiction. Instability may result from events in another jurisdiction or occur across several jurisdictions, so regulators’ responses to market disruptions should seek to facilitate stability domestically and globally through cooperation and information sharing.

Risk Management Measures

To pre-empt market failures and protect investors, the regulator/exchanges have developed a comprehensive risk management system, which is constantly monitored and upgraded. It encompasses capital adequacy of members, adequate margin requirements, exposure and turnover limits, indemnity insurance, on-line position monitoring & automatic disablement, etc.

Apart from regulator/exchanges’ risk management system, a stock broking firm must identify factors that can trigger operational, market, credit and regulatory risks. It also needs to establish procedures so that risk management begins at the point nearest to the assumption of risks. This means adapting trade-entry procedures, customer documentation, client engagement methods, trading limits, and other normal activities to maintain management control, generate consistent data and eliminate needless exposure to risk.

Broker’s Risk Management System

The goal of a risk management system is to measure and manage a firm’s exposure to various risks identified as central to its operations. For each risk category, the firm must employ procedures to measure and manage firm-level exposure. These are:

  1. Establish Standards and Reports: Every broker has a set of standards which they adhere to, and these are the standards against which a client is measured. In general and not only among brokers, certain standards must be met before rating a company or a client. These must be reported to the management for their perusal and action. .
  2. Impose Position Limits and Rules: A key element of financial risk management is deciding which risks to bear and to what degree. A firm needs to impose limits to cover exposures to counter-parties, credit, and overall position concentrations relative to systematic risks. .
  3. Set Investment Guidelines and Strategies: A firm should outline investment guidelines and strategies for risk taking in the immediate future in terms of commitments to a particular market area, extent of asset-liability mismatching, or the need to hedge against systematic risk at a particular time. Risk management involves determining what risks a firm’s financial activities generate and avoiding unprofitable risk positions. The board’s role is usually described as setting the risk appetite of the organization; however this is not possible if risks are understated or ill defined. Guidelines can advise on the appropriate level of active management, given the state of the market and senior management’s willingness to absorb the risks implied by the aggregate portfolio.



A broker’s risk management works on the following concepts:

  • Broker should ensure that there is enough cash balance in the clients account to honor the trade. Should have sufficient margin else the trade cannot be entered into the system.
  • In case a buy order is entered by the client, the broker’s system queries to find the available balance in the clients bank account and whether it is sufficient to meet the stipulated margin requirements. This is as per the agreed upon terms and conditions of risk management with the client. If the available balance satisfies the risk management parameters then the order is routed to the exchange. In cases where the balance is not sufficient the order gets rejected. A rejection message is shown in the system, which then is conveyed to client.
  • In case there is no direct interface to a banking system, the client is asked to maintain cash and securities deposit in order to ensure adequacy of balance.
  • In case a client gives a sell order, the broker ensures that the client’s custody/demat account has sufficient balance of securities to honor the sale transaction; this is possible only if the client has his/her demat account with the same broker. In all other cases, wherever the client has his demat account with an outside / third party DP, it’s the duty of the client to ensure that he has/ will have the required securities in the demat account, before selling the same.



Nov 16

Commodity Derivatives in India


The Commodity Futures Market in India dates back to more than a century. The first organized futures market was established in 1875, under the name and style of ‘Bombay Cotton Trade Association’ to trade in cotton contracts, just 10 years after the establishment of Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) in USA and thus became the 2nd oldest commodity exchange in the world. Subsequently, many regional exchanges like Gujarat Vyapar Mandali (1900) for oilseeds, Chamber of Commerce at Hapur (1913) and East India Jute Association Ltd. (1927) for raw jute etc. came into existence. By the 1930s, there were more than 300 commodity exchanges in the country dealing in commodities like turmeric, sugar, gur, pepper, cotton, oilseeds etc. This was followed by institutions for futures trading in oilseeds, food grains, etc.

The futures market in India underwent rapid growth between the period of First and Second World Wars. As a result, before the outbreak of the Second World War, a large number of commodity exchanges trading futures contracts in several commodities like cotton, groundnut, groundnut oil, raw jute, jute goods, castor seed, wheat, rice, sugar, precious metals like gold and silver were flourishing throughout the country. Trading was conducted through both options and futures instruments. However, there was no market regulator and hence there was no uniformity in trading practices. Further, there was no structured clearing and settlement system.

In view of the delicate supply situation of major commodities in the backdrop of war efforts mobilization, futures trading came to be prohibited during the Second World War under the Defence of India Act. After the dawn of independence, the futures markets were put under the Central List of subjects under the Constitution of India. In its wake, the Forward Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1952 (FCR Act, 1952) was passed to regulate this market with Forward Markets Commission (FMC) being set up in 1953 at Mumbai as the regulator. However options, which were then perceived to be risky instruments of trading, were totally banned under the Act itself. Futures trading started to gain momentum in many commodities. However, in the mid-1960s, the Government imposed a ban on the futures trading of most of the commodities on the assumption that this led to inflationary conditions.

Reopening of the Forward Markets

The National Agricultural Policy announced in July 2000 recognized the positive role of forward and futures market in price discovery and price risk management. In pursuance thereof, Government of India, by a notification dated 1.4.2003, permitted additional 54 commodities for futures trading and 3 national electronic commodity exchanges came into operation in the same year. With the issue of this notification, prohibition on futures trading has been completely withdrawn.

Since then several changes have taken place in the Commodity Futures Market. There are now 21 commodity Exchanges in the country including five National Multi-Commodity Exchanges, located at Mumbai (3), Ahmedabad (1) and New Delhi (1). All these five national exchanges are state-of-the-art, demutualized & corporatized trading platforms with professional management from the beginning with facilities for on-line trading across the country. At present, 110 commodities have been notified for trading and more than 40 commodities are actively traded.

Suitability of a commodity for futures trading

Futures trading can be organized in those commodities/markets which display some special features. The concerned commodity should satisfy certain criteria as listed below:

  1. The commodity should be homogenous in nature, i.e., the concerned commodity should be capable of being classified into well identifiable varieties and the price of each variety should have some parity with the price of the other varieties;
  2. The commodity must be capable of being standardized into identifiable grades;
  3. Supply and demand for the commodity should be large and there should be a large number of suppliers as well as consumers;
  4. The commodity should flow naturally to the market without restraints either of government or of private agencies;
  5. There should be some degree of uncertainty either regarding the supply or the consumption or regarding both supply and consumption,
  6. The commodity should be capable of storage over a reasonable period of time.

Economic functions of the futures markets

In a free market economy, futures trading perform two important economic functions, viz. price discovery and price risk management. Such trading in commodities is useful to all sectors of the economy. The forward prices give advance signals of an imbalance between demand and supply. This helps the government and the private sector with exposure to commodities and price volatility to make plans and arrangements in a shortage situation for timely imports, instead of having to rush in for such imports in a crisis-like situation when the prices are already high. This ensures availability of adequate supplies and averts spurt in prices. Similarly, in a situation of a bumper crop, the early price signals emitted by the futures market help the importers to defer or stagger their imports and exporters to plan exports, which protect the producers against un-remunerative prices. At the same time, it enables the importers to hedge their position against commitments made for import and exporters to hedge their export commitments. As a result, the export competitiveness of the country improves.

Participants in the Commodity Futures Markets

There are three broad categories of participants in the futures markets, namely, hedgers, speculators and arbitrageurs.

Hedgers are those who have an underlying interest in the specific delivery or ready delivery contracts and are using futures market to insure themselves against adverse price fluctuations. Examples could be stockists, exporters, producers, etc. They require some people who are prepared to accept the counter-party position.

Speculators are those who may not have an interest in the ready contracts, i.e., the underlying commodity, etc. but see an opportunity of price movement favourable to them. They are prepared to assume the risk which the hedgers are trying to transfer in the futures market. They provide depth and liquidity to the market. While some hedgers from demand and supply side may find matching transactions, they by themselves cannot provide sufficient liquidity and depth to the market. Hence, the speculators who are essentially expert market analysts take on the risk of the hedgers for future profits and thereby provide a useful economic function and are an integral part of the futures market. It would not be wrong to say that in the absence of speculators, the market will not be liquid and may at times collapse.

Arbitrageurs are those who make simultaneous sale and purchase in two markets so as to take benefit of price imperfections. In the process they help, remove the price imperfections in different markets, For example, the arbitrageurs help in bringing the prices of contracts of different months in a commodity in alignment.