Exposure margin is an additional margin charged on top of SPAN margin for the purpose of risk management. And it probably makes sense for unlimited risk products such as naked futures and naked short options but those are not popular amongst retail traders now because of the heavy margins associated with them. Most traders seem to have moved to option buying which does excite them as it is a limited risk and unlimited profit product. And because of this shift in product choice to a limited risk product, brokers also must be at ease I guess cause their clients can never run into a negative balance with long options regardless of what bets they make. Clients are happy and so are the brokers. But we know for a fact, achieving success in trading is very hard and for options buyers, time makes it harder in the form of theta decay. Point being that naked option buying might give you a jackpot or two but at the end of the day, it’s not a consistent way of making money. The only consistent way to make money in options in my opinion is not to buy naked options but rather create spreads. That way, you are able offset the theta decay by a great degree and not only that, you end up reducing the cost basis of your long option and thus, reducing maximum risk as well. And in terms of reward, good profits can be reaped in a consistent manner rather than trying to hit jackpots every now and then. All in all, spreads are the superior product. They also enable you to sell options in the form of credit spreads but without the unlimited risk part. Retailers too can sell options without too much risk with the help of spreads.
But alas, spreads are not very popular and people don’t utilise them despite spreads offering several more advantages than naked option trading. There are several reasons behind their unpopularity but one major reason that stands out is regulatory framework.
The current rules require that exposure margin be charged on the short option of a spread. So, for example -
If you create a debit spread having 25000 as the max risk, you will need to shell out an extra 35000 to create this spread considering that 3.5% of the contract value is being charged as exposure margin.
Now, does it make sense? How can exposure margin itself exceed the maximum risk that is involved in the trade? The global standard says that a limited risk strategy such as a simple debit spread will have only its max loss(which is its net debit value btw) as the only margin requirement. This is what is followed in the US
as well. You are not charged above the max loss. But in India, we being charged more than twice the amount of the max loss. It’s illogical in my opinion.
Also, by the definition of exposure margin itself, it cannot be applied to spreads. Exposure margin, if I am not wrong, acts in when SPAN margin fails. It also goes by the name of ‘extreme loss margin’ for that matter. How can exposure margin be applied when you are trading a limited risk strategy. In the most extreme scenario also, your loss cannot exceed the supposed max loss.
Now, you might ask what would happen if a trader closes only one of the legs and not the other one. That would certainly expose him to a risk greater than his initial max loss. Yeah, that’s true but we have to understand the implications of this. We are basically talking about the possibility of negative balance here. That’s the broker’s biggest fear right? But that’s not a thing with most clients in the first place. Most clients wouldn’t close their long options first cause they know peak margin penalty would become applicable and they also run the risk of having their short option running naked. Also, if they closed their short option first for a loss and they had liquid cash in their account to cover for that loss, then also it’s not a problem even if the hedge is broken and the long option is allowed to run naked, because they already covered for their incurred loss. So, the solution is simple. A client cannot break his hedge by himself if doing so results in a negative balance. Basically, he gets ‘nudged’. He gets informed by the broker through a notification or something that what they are about to do might result in a negative balance for them. It’s just so that they are well informed of what they are about to do. They should also be made aware that they must close both of their positions simultaneously and failing to do so will automatically result in the RMS closing off the remaining position. I think it’s that simple. Charging exposure margin from every single client is simply excessive in my opinion considering not everyone is that stupid. Removing exposure margin for spreads and introducing a broker assisted notification for clients that might pose a risk is the solution in my opinion and the way forward.
I request @nithin to please go through my post and provide feedback to my suggestion and if possible, have my suggestion be taken up with SEBI for consideration. I think my suggestion if implemented would greatly help the retail community as it would encourage people to create spreads instead of playing with naked options. It would instill a sense amongst retailers for logical plays in the market rather than attempting to hit a six on every bet.