Sebi and stock exchange officials discussed the matter in the last week of October, the people said. Market participants have been lobbying for such a move on the grounds that margins in India are among the highest in the world. This is said to be one of the factors behind foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) preferring to trade Indian derivatives in offshore locations such as Singapore instead of on-shore.
The regulator didn’t respond to queries.
Derivative market traders currently pay two margins — standard portfolio analysis of risk (SPAN) and exposure. The first is an upfront margin that traders pay at the time of placing trades, a percentage of the value of the trades as calculated by the SPAN software. Exposure is an additional margin that brokers collect from their clients for trading in derivatives at the time of initiating a trade.
The regulator and the exchanges are looking at scrapping the second and retaining only SPAN, the people said. An increase in SPAN margins will partially offset this, benefiting hedged bets.
“If the proposal is implemented, several traders using hedging strategies will end up paying substantially lower margins since SPAN margin is calculated at a portfolio level,” said Chandan Taparia, derivatives analyst, Motilal Oswal Securities. The exposure margin, on the other hand, pertains to that particular trade. “This is a welcome step since such hedging strategies carry limited risk and hence would not be subjected to high margins,” Taparia said.
Brokers said a single margin structure will help individual traders bet on options trading strategies at lower cost.
“On Indian exchanges, retail traders don’t trade option strategies as the margin requirements make them non-viable even though the maximum risk is limited,” said Nithin Kamath, founder and CEO of Zerodha. “With the new proposed margins, we would be enabling retail to trade options through strategies, which have limited risks.”
The regulator had received several representations from industry bodies, including FPIs, to rationalise the margining system for the derivatives market. In the run-up to settlement, margins on some stocks surge as much as 100 per cent of the contract value whereas the global standard is 10-20 per cent.
“The idea of Sebi was to simplify the margining structure and also give some benefit to genuine traders who use derivatives for safety net purposes,” said one of the persons cited above. “However, Sebi is planning to tweak the existing calculation for SPAN margins by increasing the multiplier. This would mean SPAN margins could go higher in lieu of exposure margin.”
A single margin structure will help market participants allocate capital more efficiently.
“Until now, introducing a single margin wasn’t possible since BSE and NSE do it at the exchange level. However, with the introduction of interoperability before the clearing corporations, such a step has been made possible,” said a senior exchange official. “We have also represented to Sebi not to increase the SPAN margins substantially higher since an internal study done by us showed current SPAN margin calculation covers losses that could occur in 99 per cent of scenarios.”
However, those punting on highly volatile stocks are unlikely to get any relief from the scrapping of exposure margins, said the head of derivatives at a domestic brokerage.
“Such contracts are currently subject to more margins, including additional surveillance margins (ASM) and bonus margin for highly leveraged stocks,” the person said. “Our sense is that Sebi will continue to charge the additional margins on such counters.”
About 30-40 stocks are subject to additional margins. In October, Sebi proposed to impose 35 per cent higher margins on the contracts of companies where more than 25 per cent of the promoter shareholding is pledged. This impacted nine counters including Bajaj Consumer, Dish TV, Sadbhav Infrastructure and GMR Infrastructure.