An investment position is used to counterbalance the risk of a companion investment losing or making money

Author: Adin Lykken
Adin Lykken
Adin Lykken
Consulting | Private Equity

Currently, Adin is an associate at Berkshire Partners, an $16B middle-market private equity fund. Prior to joining Berkshire Partners, Adin worked for just over three years at The Boston Consulting Group as an associate and consultant and previously interned for the Federal Reserve Board and the U.S. Senate.

Adin graduated from Yale University, Magna Cum Claude, with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics.

Reviewed By: Christopher Haynes
Christopher Haynes
Christopher Haynes
Asset Management | Investment Banking

Chris currently works as an investment associate with Ascension Ventures, a strategic healthcare venture fund that invests on behalf of thirteen of the nation's leading health systems with $88 billion in combined operating revenue. Previously, Chris served as an investment analyst with New Holland Capital, a hedge fund-of-funds asset management firm with $20 billion under management, and as an investment banking analyst in SunTrust Robinson Humphrey's Financial Sponsor Group.

Chris graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and earned a Master of Finance (MSF) from the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis.

Last Updated:October 5, 2023

What is Hedging?

A hedge is an investment position used to counterbalance the risk of a companion investment losing or making money. 

Investors have a variety of financial instruments to create a hedge, including:

  • Stocks
  • Exchange-traded funds (ETFs)
  • Insurance
  • Forward contracts
  • Swaps
  • Options
  • Futures contracts
  • Gambles
  • Various forms of over-the-counter and derivative products

In the 19th century, public futures markets were established to allow for transparent, standardized, and efficient hedging of agricultural commodity prices.

They have since expanded to include futures contracts for hedging the values of

It is typically considered a sophisticated investment technique, but the foundations are simple. It grew increasingly prevalent as hedge funds gained fame – and the criticism that came with it.

Despite this, it is not well recognized as a term or a tactic. As a result, many people are unaware that they hedge various items in their everyday lives, many of which have nothing to do with the stock market.

Like any other risk/reward tradeoff, this also yields lesser returns than "bet the farm" on a risky investment, but it also reduces the danger of losing your shirt. 

On the other hand, many hedge funds risk that customers will wish to transfer their money elsewhere. They aim to reap the benefits of taking on this increased risk.

Key Takeaways

  • Hedging is a strategy used to offset investment risks.
  • Various financial instruments can be employed for hedging, including stocks, ETFs, options, and futures.
  • Hedging originated in commodity markets and has expanded to cover energy, metals, currency, and interest rate fluctuations.
  • Understanding hedging is important even for non-traders, as it is utilized by organizations and institutions to manage risks.
  • Different strategies, such as equity options hedging and equity futures hedging, can be employed to mitigate risks in specific investment scenarios.

Hedging the price of a stock

The long/short equity strategy is prominent in the financial sector.

Due to the company's novel and efficient way of creating widgets, a stock trader expects the stock price of Company A will climb during the following month. 

They wish to purchase Company A shares to profit from the anticipated price increase since they feel the stock is now undervalued. However, Company A operates in a highly volatile widget market. 

As a result, there's a chance that a future occurrence will impact stock prices across the industry, including the stock of Company A and all other firms.

Therefore, the trader is only interested in Company A and not the entire industry. They seek to hedge against industry risk by short-selling an equal number of shares from Company B, Company A's direct but weaker competitor.

Stock market index futures have given investors a second way to hedge risk on a single stock by selling short the market rather than another stock or a group of stocks. 

Futures are often highly fungible and cover many prospective investments, making them more convenient to utilize than trying to identify a stock that reflects the inverse of a chosen investment. 


Hedging with futures is a common aspect of the standard long/short strategy.

hedging with Employee stock option

Employee stock options (ESOs) are securities granted primarily to the company's executives and workers. These investments are riskier than stocks.

Selling exchange-traded calls and, to a lesser extent, buying puts is an economic strategy to reduce ESO risk. Hedging ESOs is discouraged by companies, although it is not prohibited.

Airlines employ futures contracts and derivatives to hedge their exposure to jet fuel prices. This is because they understand that they will need to buy jet fuel for as long as they are in business and that fuel costs are unpredictable. 

Southwest Airlines was able to save a significant amount of money on gasoline compared to competitor airlines by utilizing crude oil futures contracts to hedge its fuel demand (and participating in similar but more complicated derivatives operations).

People seldom wager against desired outcomes crucial to their identity since taking such a risk sends a negative signal about their identity.

For example,

Betting against your favorite team or political candidate might indicate that you aren't as dedicated as you believed.

How does hedging impact you?

The majority of investors never trade a derivative contract. The majority of buy-and-hold investors completely ignore short-term changes. 

For these investors, it is worthless, so they let their investments grow along with the market.

So why should you become familiar? You should understand how hedges work even if you never use them in your portfolio.

Many significant organizations and financial institutions will hedge in some way. Derivatives, for instance, may be used by oil companies to safeguard themselves against rising oil costs.

An international mutual fund could offer a buffer against foreign exchange rate fluctuations. Grabbing and analyzing these assets will be easier if you have a basic understanding. These strategies come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

It may be applied to various situations, including foreign currency trading. The stock example above is a "typical" type, referred to as a pair's trade in the industry since it involves trading two linked securities. 

The varieties of hedges have dramatically evolved as investors have become more sophisticated, as have the mathematical tools used to compute values (known as models).

If the beta of a Vodafone stock is 2, an investor will hedge a 10,000 GBP long position in Vodafone with a 20,000 GBP short position in the FTSE futures.

Hedging against the risk of adverse market changes is done through futures and forward contracts. These originated in commodities markets in the nineteenth century, but a substantial worldwide industry for products to hedge financial market risk has evolved in the last fifty years.

how do hedging strategies work

It is the equilibrium that underpins all types of investments. A derivative, or a contract whose value is determined by an underlying asset, is a typical type of hedging.

1. Equity and equity options hedging

An option contract can be used to hedge an open long-term position.

For example,

An investor would purchase a company's shares to see its value grow—the price plummets, leaving the investor with a loss.

Such occurrences can be avoided if the investor chooses an option that minimizes the impact of an adverse event. An alternative is a contract allowing an investor to purchase or sell a stock at a set price for a period. 

In this situation, a put option would allow the investor to profit from the stock's price decrease. That profit would cover at least a portion of his stock purchase loss. This is thought to be one of the most successful methods

2. Equity and equity futures hedging

A portfolio's equity can be hedged by having the opposite position in futures. Futures are shorted when equity is acquired, and long futures are when stocks are shorted to safeguard your stock picking from systematic market risk.

The market-neutral strategy is one technique to hedge. In this strategy, an equivalent dollar amount in stock is traded in futures, such as buying 10,000 GBP of Vodafone and shorting 10,000 GBP of FTSE futures (the index in which Vodafone trades).

The beta neutral is another approach to hedge. The historical connection between a stock and an index is known as beta.

Researched & Authored by Akhilesh

Edited by Colt DiGiovanni | LinkedIn

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