Author Archives: rjainny

Volatility surfaces for risk and OCC portfolio margin

Calculating the current implied volatility of an option or the entire options chain of listed options is quite straightforward. However the use of these implied volatilities in risk measurements has varying implications.  This article studies how different volatility surface methods can result in very different stress risk calculations for an equity options portfolio. Furthermore is shows the impact on portfolio margin calculations. Several years ago, Customer Portfolio Margin was introduced for equity options positions.   The margin calculations are performed by The Options Clearing Corp (“OCC”) using their TIMS methodology. The methodology is stress test based, where each underlying is shocked by various percentage moves, typically about 8% for indices and 15% for single stocks.  The worst case loss for each underlying is calculated and aggregated using some aggregation logic.

Since it is stress test based the implied volatility surface used to perform the simulations plays an important part in the results.  For many years the OCC followed a methodology of cleansing options closing prices to ensure no arbitrage conditions occurring and they employed certain volatility surface corrections to ensure reasonable stress tests.However in mid 2014 the OCC changed their methodology, and the volatility surfaces are no longer smoothed.  The result of this has been deterioration in the portfolio margin results in some cases.  The margin requirements for many deep out the money options jumped dramatically, simply due to the implied volatility used for them bring exorbitantly high.  Lack of smoothing retains the “kinks” in the volatility surface in the stress calculations – resulting in many cases where further out of the money options have greater margin requirement than strikes closer to the money.  Thus certain long call or long put spreads were actually being assessed as requiring margin, which should never be the case. Such irregularities in the portfolio margin calculations are disturbing as many firms rely on the accuracy and consistency of the calculation from the OCC.

Link to the full research article is below

Volatility surfaces for Risk and OCC margin

What Ails Market risk management – March 2008

I wrote this article back in early 2008, before the financial crisis.  It appeared in Wilmott magazine in April/May 2008.

The article explores some of the shortcomings in the market risk analysis practice at most financial institutions.  It presents several ideas on how to improve the actual process of producing market risk numbers.  It is focused on the practical aspects of market risk managemen


Looking back at this article in the post-2008 world,  it highlighted several issues that really came to light after the crisis – in particular the use of too short a historical lookback for VaR and stress tests, the importance of the outliers in a VaR PL distribution (now use of CVaR is common)  and the need to incorporate more risk factors.

The link to the article is below:

What ails market risk management

Inherently Dirty?

Early in the morning on a warm Sunday seemed the perfect time to go for a walk on Juhu beach in Mumbai, before the city woke up and masses of humanity overcame everything.  Besides a few young kids playing cricket on the beach before their 10am curfew, I am essentially alone.  I stand still, looking at the ocean, behind me the beautiful grounds of the Theosophical society. It should be the perfect place to get a moment of peace away from the hustle of bustle of Mumbai. But try as I may, my gaze kept coming back to the trash strewn all over the beach – modern human trash of bottles, plastic, old clothes, food wrappers – just carelessly left behind by the beach visitors the day before.

Walk anywhere in most Indian city, and you will finds trash everywhere.  Whether it be a working class colony or a street of multi-million dollar apartments.

Are Indians just inherently dirty?   That is hard to believe. Visit most people’s home, whether rich or poor, and they are kept neat and clean – swept and mopped almost every day.

While visiting a friend in a posh suburb of Mumbai, I noticed a food wrapper had fallen on the ground. His father just casually pushed the wrapper with his feet over the edge of the balcony and let it fall to the ground below.

If the wrapper is trash for your apartment floor, then why isn’t it trash for the ground below.  Herein lays the crux of the issue.

Indians in general have a very different relationship with the environment outside their homes compared to western countries.  One’s home is a sanctuary, but outside is essentially free for all and individuals do not seem to have any sense of responsibility to it – it is someone else’s problem.  In the West it would not be uncommon to see people volunteer to clean up their community on weekends. I have seen groups of people picking up litter from the side of the street on weekends.  When little league baseball season starts, dozens of ordinary people, some quite well to do, will get together and clean up the fields, picking up trash, raking, mulching etc. – creating a clean, beautiful, safe outdoors community environment for their kids.  This would never happen in India.  Public spaces are dumping grounds, as long as you cannot see it from your home, it is ok.  Cleaning it up is the responsibility of the government, municipality or someone else.

India has had tremendous economic growth in the last decade and a half.  However can a society truly progress with a callous attitude towards its environment?   Can true living standards be raised without care of the community and public spaces around us?  Is it real progress if we live in nice million dollar apartments and houses, but outside there is trash, dirt and an unhealthy environment?  My friends in India take exception to this and point out examples of some clean areas – but the fact that the clean areas is the exception rather than the rule, says it all.

The irony is that the Indian culture refers to Mother earth with reverence and in song and literature the soil of our land is glorified.  Yet for all its talk, the reality is that in India we have no issue disrespecting mother earth and throwing our trash on her face.

The F Train

A tall, extremely skinny young white man – or should I say kid – walked into the subway train today.  He has had long, unkempt hair all the way down to his waist, dirty black sweats and looked quite ragged. Except he has a small chair in one hand and a half size upright bass , with a bow, in the other.


He proceeded to put his chair in the middle of the car, sit down and start playing  – with a high degree of intensity, head moving from side to side, hair flowing, his boney fingers moving up and down the fret in rapid action.  He was good – not brilliant, but good – and sure enough caught the attention of many passengers.

After a short 3 minute piece, he got up to a round of applause and put out a baseball cap for donations – very politely, remembering to thank each person.  I have never seen so many people immediately give to a subway musician.  He easily cleared $10.   Then he very methodically picked up chair and bass just in time for the next subway stop, bolted out the door, to the next car up.

I started to do some quick calculation.  A subway train usually has 9-10 cars.  Over a 45 min to 1 hour ride, going from one car to the next, playing just one piece each time – he probably cleared an easy $90 – all cash!

Extrapolate that – say he did this just 4 hours a day (he could not do this in the morning and evening rush hours, and probably mid day quiet hours would not be worth it), working a normal work week, that adds up to about $79,000 a year!  All cash – tax free! That is far more than what many of the people that gave him money make.  That is far more than what a really talented musician would make in a real, full time job!

This kid was not some poor, hard on his luck, down and out struggling musician.  This was a well thought out and planned, orchestrated show.  This kid is actually an entrepreneur, who realized by donning the right look, he can play the sympathy card such that he will make more money that just what his talent would suggest.

Absolutely brilliant – I think we really took us all for a ride.  And in full disclosure, I also gave him $1….


P.S. obviously the above is speculative – if he really is a struggling musician trying to make ends meet – I wish him all the best!


Drawing by Shivani Jain, my daughter

Occupy Wall Street

If anything I am a liberal – and although I work in Wall Street, I am the antithesis of a typical Wall Streeter (my kids think I should have been born earlier so I could have been a hippie in the 60’s!)

In spite of this I have found it difficult to support the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy XXXX movement so far.

I saw the protestors a few weeks ago in Zucotti Square, and it was somewhat heartwarming to see a peaceful 60’s style protest with them all camped out, singing, dancing etc.  But what was clear to me was that they really did not have a message.  Even their website as of last week said they have no agenda.

I felt I could hand out a bunch of Save the Whales or Stop the Genocide posters and they would happily take them and start waving them around.

Any protest needs a voice, a medium and a clear message.  They seem to have found their voice and have a powerful medium (Facebook, internet etc) but somewhat lack a clear message.

I just read a list of their demands – and again it is not cohesive with a clear outcome – but more like a jumble of grievances that have been jammed together.   And many make no sense at all.


For example they want open borders so everyone can travel freely and they also want minimum wage set to $20.  How is that going to work?  There will be a mass influx of people into the US and even if the legal minimum wage is $20, the illegal wages will drop like a rock down to $3-$4 an hour.

They want to forgive all mortgage debt, credit card debt, personal loans etc. Why is rewarding individual fiscal irresponsibility a responsible or economic beneficial act? Forgiving all mortgage debt basically means doing away with all real estate lending altogether and home prices will fall by over 80%. The financial system will crash and people will lose their bank deposits en mass.

So to be a credible movement, they need to develop a clear message with achievable solutions and measurable outcomes. If you look at recent movements, like the anti-corruption in India or the protests in the middle-east, they had fairly clear, focused objectives.

However saying all this, there is an interesting change evolving.   Today I have read at least three main street media articles on the movement and in each of these the authors state what the movement is all about.  The authors didn’t actually get this from the protestors, but took the liberty of interpreting what they are seeing and translated this into clear messages. So while a movement normally starts with a purpose, it seems like this one may have started with just a voice and a medium and now their message is being defined elsewhere! This to me is truly fascinating and may actually convert this movement into something with legs – as opposed to something that will disintegrate into nothing.