Trading Derivatives: 3 Things to Keep in Mind

Investment Banking

Derivative trading involves buying and selling financial instruments that derive value from an underlying asset. These assets include foreign exchange, stocks, bonds and commodities, and are traded in derivatives. 

The trade life cycle of a derivative typically involves the initial agreement between buyers and sellers, followed by the fulfilment of the contract at a specified date in the future. 

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Derivative trading involves using a variety of financial instruments, including options, futures and swaps, to bet on the price changes of the underlying assets. The objective is to produce profits by correctly forecasting the direction of price changes and successfully managing risks. 

Let us look at the three most important points one should remember while trading in derivatives.

1. Risks involved

Market risk

It is the potential for losses brought on by fluctuations in the underlying asset's value.

Since the value of a derivative is determined from the value of an underlying asset, this risk is significant in derivative trading.

Credit risk

It refers to the possibility that a counterparty will fail to meet its obligations, leaving the other party holding the bag.

Since derivative trading is frequently done on margin or with leverage, which raises the risk of losses in the event of a default, this risk is significant.

Liquidity risk

It refers to the chance of being unable to sell or get out of a position because neither buyers nor sellers are available.

Restricted liquidity in some products makes it challenging to close a position at a fair price when trading in the derivatives markets.

Operational risk

It is the potential for losses brought on by errors in operating procedures or system performance.

This risk is essential in derivative trading because it involves intricate systems and procedures requiring careful management and supervision to prevent losses.

Legal and regulatory risk

It refers to the possibility of financial losses brought on by modifications to the rules or legislation governing the trading of derivatives.

Regulations can change quickly and significantly influence the value of investments, making this risk particularly crucial.

Counterparty risk

It implies that the opposite party to trade won't keep its end of the bargain.

This risk is significant because it includes intricate and frequently lengthy contracts that depend on mutual trust and confidence.

2. Importance of having a trading plan

Having a trading plan is crucial for success in trading derivatives. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Minimise emotions: A trading strategy reduces the influence of emotions, which can trigger irrational and impulsive behaviour, in trading decisions.
  • Provides clarity: A trading plan simplifies the steps to be taken in various market conditions, what to expect from the market and how to manage risk. It aids traders in making defensible decisions without being influenced by feelings or ideas.
  • Increases consistency: A trading plan enables traders to maintain consistency in their trading strategy, which is crucial for long-term success. It allows them to imitate their triumphs and prevents them from repeating the same mistakes.
  • Helps manage risk: Well-defined stop-loss levels and restrictions on the amount of cash that can be risked in each trade and articulating how to handle unforeseen events enable traders to control risk.
  • Improves discipline: By offering a precise framework for trading activity, a trading strategy aids traders in maintaining discipline. 

It guarantees that individuals trade in an organised manner, preventing rash judgements and lowering the likelihood of losses.

3. Strategies for successful derivative trading

Derivative trading is a complex and high-risk activity that requires a thorough understanding of the underlying assets and markets. 

Here are some strategies for successful derivative trading:

Educate yourself: It's crucial to have a solid understanding of financial markets, asset classification and risk management before starting with derivative trading. 

A thorough understanding of the fundamentals of derivatives, such as options, futures, swaps and their associated trading strategies, is necessary.

Develop a trading plan: An effective trading strategy for derivatives must be carefully constructed. Your objectives, risk tolerance, entry and exit methods, and the amount of capital you are willing to risk on each trade should be outlined in the goal.

Manage your risk: Trading derivatives are inherently dangerous; thus, controlling your risk is essential. It entails placing stop-loss orders, attentively watching your trades and getting ready to leave a position if the market turns against you.

Use technical analysis: It entails examining charts and other market data to spot trends and patterns. It can also unearth trading opportunities and lead to better trading decisions.


Derivative trading is a complex activity that requires knowledge, skill and discipline. For those interested in pursuing a career in investment banking, expertise in derivative trading is a valuable asset.

Imarticus Learning's Certified Investment Banking Operations Professional course provides comprehensive training on the complexities of foreign exchange and derivatives markets, trade life cycles and risk management. This course will help individuals develop the skills necessary to succeed in the competitive world of investment banking.

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