What is Variation Margin? Meaning, Example, Importance, and More

It acts as a threshold for triggering a margin call, which occurs when the account balance falls below the required maintenance margin. Initial margin sets the initial deposit amount for the position, while variation margin manages daily fluctuations. If the account balance drops below the maintenance margin, traders must either add funds (variation margin) or close the position to meet the requirements.

  1. This daily exchange of funds adjusts the margin account balance, ensuring trades maintain the required liquidity.
  2. When later recalling this collateral, the posting party must send that instruction to the Custodian, however the Custodian will not return the collateral unless a release is granted from the secured party.
  3. When trading securities, market participants are exposed to the risk of price movements.
  4. If the account balance drops below the maintenance margin, traders must either add funds (variation margin) or close the position to meet the requirements.

Without initial margin, (the requirement in cash to start buying and selling financial instruments on an exchange) there would be much less volume in the markets. On the contrary, the variation margin is the amount required to top-up the trading account to the minimum margin level. The margin call is when the trader’s broker notifies that there is a need to deposit money in the trading account. The margin call is made when the funds in the trading account fall below the maintenance level. Consider two parties enter into a contract to sell and purchase the future contract.

How do initial and variation margins affect risk management?

It is made even more attractive if the broker is a market maker with no need to resort to foreclosures and repossessions. So, the broker can call the buyer of the future and request to add the USD 25 to reach the threshold of USD 50. At the end of the trading day, due to market fluctuations, the price of Company X’s shares increases to Rs 210.

As a financial derivative, a CFD allows traders to profit from prices that are rising by going long, or those falling, by going short. Finding variation margin means doing some math to determine how much the new initial margin requirement works out to when the price of the underlying security drops. But as the previous variation example illustrates, it’s not overly complicated. The International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) has played an influential role in the standardization of margin requirements across jurisdictions. Through the development of the ISDA SIMM (Standard Initial Margin Model), the association has provided a common methodology for market participants in the calculation of initial margin. ISDA’s guidelines have been adopted by many countries, including South Africa, where the South African Reserve Bank has endorsed the use of the ISDA SIMM.

Market participants are starting to prepare, distribute or receive documentation in connection with their (or their counterparties’) regulatory margin requirements. UMR is a set of rules that apply to margin (i.e., collateral) on U-OTC derivatives. The Rules for VM were implemented in 2017, but the IM Rules continue to be phased in (starting from 2016 for the largest institutions and continuing into 2022 when smaller institutions and buy-side firms come into scope). Further, requirements for how IM is to be calculated and the types of collateral that can be used are prescribed by the Rules.

The futures contract is to sell and purchase the 50 kg of Apple precisely after six months for a pre-agreed price of USD 500. The initial margin for this future contract is USD 50, and the maintenance margin is USD 30. Maintenance margin is the minimum amount of the funds that must be maintained in the trading account by each of the parties in the contract. Both parties need to keep the maintenance margin in their trading account, or the contract can be liquidated. In the Indian derivatives market, let’s consider a scenario involving variation margin. Suppose Trader A enters into a futures contract for 100 shares of Company X at a price of Rs 200 per share.

Understanding Leverage in Margin Trading

Variation margin, on the other hand, is the additional funds that may be required to maintain an open position based on daily price fluctuations. Variation margins are settled daily to ensure the account maintains the required level of liquidity. In summary, brokers and clearing members play a critical role in safeguarding the stability and integrity of the financial markets by managing initial and variation margins for their clients. Through a robust risk management process, they help minimize the credit risk and potential losses that may arise from adverse market movements or failures to fulfill financial obligations. Margin trading allows traders to use leverage, amplifying both potential profits and losses based on price movements in the market. The level of leverage depends on the initial margin requirement set by the broker, typically expressed as a percentage.

This allows parties to use the ISDA 2016 Credit Support Annex for Variation Margin (VM) with French-law governed AFB Master Agreements and FBF Master Agreements. Because the BCBS/IOSCO framework is a set of guidelines that needs to be implemented https://g-markets.net/ separately in each G20 jurisdiction, the precise rules will differ on a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis. The second phase, which applies to all other derivatives users (subject to certain exemptions), is scheduled to start in March 2017.


If a derivative counterparty is subject to the regulatory requirements, they will not be permitted to enter into derivatives unless that derivative complies with those regulatory requirements. The final rules also include provisions to implement a 2015 statute that exempts certain nonfinancial counterparties from the scope of the margin regulations for uncleared swaps that hedge or mitigate commercial risk. In this approach, any IM requirement is posted to a segregated account in the form of eligible collateral as prescribed by the Rules. If the IA is less than the IM amount posted, the IA will be deemed to have been covered by the posting of IM. If the IA requirement is greater than the IM posted, the additional amount necessary to meet the IA requirement is allocated to the SD, according to the legacy IA process.

Margin Approach (IA and IM)

If additional cash isn’t provided, then the broker has all rights to close positions (if not all) to meet the margin requirements and maintain its financial health as an institution. Margin calls play a vital role in regulating the financial market by minimizing the risk to all involved parties, including brokers, clearing members, and traders. By upholding the requirements set forth in margin calls, the market can function efficiently, providing a platform for traders and investors to participate in a healthy and secure environment. It helps prevent systemic risk by ensuring traders have sufficient resources to cover potential losses promptly, minimising the chances of defaults that could cascade across the financial system. Clearing members are required to pay variation margins on a day-to-day or an intraday basis in order to reduce the risk exposure of high-risk positions carried by clearinghouses.

Once margin calls are issued, received, considered, and responded to, the job of selecting and moving collateral must be done. As mentioned, this process can differ (even significantly) from the legacy process that Managers have become accustomed to for moving collateral for the VM process. If the result is that IM requirements are below 50M, then the exchange of IM will not be required with such SD. If the result yields a number above USD 50M, then IM must be exchanged in accordance with the Rules for that SD group. IA is the additional margin which was and will continue to be required by SDs of their Fund clients.

Regulation T of the Federal Reserve Board allows investors to borrow up to 50% of the purchase price of securities being traded on margin. Though some brokerages may require a larger deposit to satisfy initial margin requirements. In margin trading, it is important for investors to understand and manage their risk exposure, as leverage can increase the chance of significant losses as well as gains.

The variation margin ultimately helps mitigate the risk for the parties involved in the contract and promotes stability in the financial markets. When a trader’s account equity dips below the required maintenance margin levels (a combination of both initial and variation margins), a margin call is issued. A margin call requires the trader to either deposit additional funds or close the position, thereby reducing the potential risk that the clearing member may face. Moreover, brokers act as a liaison between traders and clearing houses, facilitating the efficient transfer of variation margin payments. They are responsible for monitoring the margin account balances, issuing margin calls, and ensuring that the clients fulfill their margin requirements in a timely manner. When a trader opens a margin account with a brokerage firm, they are required to deposit a certain amount of cash, known as the initial margin, in order to trade securities on margin.

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If a Manager is unable to make the representations, SDs may refuse to continueto trade. For all of the above reasons, it is critical that Managers with in-scope Funds get a head start in implementing new documentation and sorting out operational procedures. Managers who delay implementation may have difficulty getting documented in time and on well-negotiated and appropriate terms. Managers should factor in a least 4 months to complete negotiation and onboarding.

While a triparty setup can be a more operationally efficient process for moving collateral than the legacy third party process, it does require both parties to have connectivity to deliver the RQV to the Custodian each day. This is a new process that Managers need to consider, as it was not necessary in the legacy VM collateral workflow. shooting star candlestick This is the traditional method for segregating collateral with which many Managers are already familiar. In a third party custody account, the collateral pledgor establishes one stand-alone account for each trading relationship. For each agreed collateral pledge, the pledgor must instruct the collateral to be moved into the account.

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