How FX Options Work, Buy FX Options, and FX Option Hedging Strategies

By 
Matt Di Vincere (Chief Editor)
Last Edited Oct 03, 2018

There is a huge variety of FX options for protection from exchange rate volatility – they can be packaged to a clients strategy in quite literally an infinite number of ways. Corporate FX options are by far the most common of FX option bookings. Here we run through FX options for businesses and hedging strategies, and how to buy them.

Buying FX Options – Top Choices

#1
UK Moneycorp: Highest Level of Credibility, Best Business FX Overall
Headquarters:
Zig Zag Building, 70 Victoria St, Westminster, London SW1E 6SQ
99.4% Editorial rating
7,000 Client Reviews
Minimum transfer:
£250 or equivalent
Why Them?
  • Operating Since 1979 - First Commercial FX Firm
  • Corporate FX Specialists
  • Great Online Platform, Tailored for SMEs
  • Many Consumer and Business Awards
  • Widest Selection of FX Hedging Tools
  • Best Credit Score by D&B
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1
Moneycorp
Moneycorp: Highest Level of Credibility, Best Business FX Overall
99.4%
Editorial rating
#2
UK Currencies Direct: Excellent Service and Very Functional Online System
Headquarters:
1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5AA
97.8% Editorial rating
7,500 Client Reviews
Minimum transfer:
£100
Why Them?
  • Large Transfers and Bespoke Business Transfer Specialists with 4.5/5 Rating on TrustPilot (5,000+ Reviews)
  • Industry Leader with £10bn in Annual Turnover
  • Batch Payments and Forward Contracts Online
  • Risk Management including Rate Alerts and Forwards
  • Most Global Offices in the Industry
  • Easy On-Boarding Process
  • No Transfer Fees and Great Rates
  • Accepts Private Clients and Business Clients of Any Requirement
  • Smooth Online and System
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2
Currencies Direct
Currencies Direct: Excellent Service and Very Functional Online System
97.8%
Editorial rating
#3
UK TorFX: Friendliest Business Currency Broker in the Industry
Headquarters:
St Mary's Terrace, Penzance, Cornwall, TR18 4DZ
93.2% Editorial rating
5,500 Client Reviews
Minimum transfer:
£1,000
Why Them?
  • Personal, Friendly Service
  • High TrustPilot Rating
  • Regular Market Updates
  • Expert Guidance by Veteran Dealers
  • Excellent Hedging Offering for Businesses
  • Property Transaction Specialists
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3
TorFX
TorFX: Friendliest Business Currency Broker in the Industry
93.2%
Editorial rating
#4
UK Global Reach Group: Excellent Client Feedback, Friendly & Professional
Headquarters:
Woolgate Exchange, 25 Basinghall St, London EC2V 5HA
90.6% Editorial rating
1,000 Client Reviews
Minimum transfer:
£1,000 or equivalent
Why Them?
  • 99% Positive Customer Feedback
  • Known for Great Currency Guidance
  • Highly Usable and Friendly Website
  • Operating for 15+ Years
  • Result of a Merger of two Leading Companies in the Money Transfer Space, One was Fully Dedicated to Corporate Foreign Exchange
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4
Global Reach Group
Global Reach Group: Excellent Client Feedback, Friendly & Professional
90.6%
Editorial rating
#5
Australia OFX: Best Online System for Business FX, Publicly Traded
Local UK Offices:
The White Chapel Building, 10 Whitechapel High St, London, E1 8QS
90.4% Editorial rating
1,500 Client Reviews
Minimum transfer:
£100 or equivalent
Why Them?
  • Traded Publicly on the Australian Stock Exchange
  • Massive Staff
  • Spotless Reputation for 20 Years
  • Ultra Professional System with High Level of Functionality
  • Very Tight Margins
  • Transparent Rates on the Online System
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5
OFX
OFX: Best Online System for Business FX, Publicly Traded
90.4%
Editorial rating
#6
UK Halo Financial: Excellent Currency Predictions
Headquarters:
Battersea Studios 2, 82 Silverthorne Rd, Nine Elms, London SW8 3HE
87.3% Editorial rating
100 Client Reviews
Minimum transfer:
£1,000
Why Them?
  • Feefo 2020 Platinum Trusted Provider
  • Excellent Website and Online Flow
  • Highly Professional
  • 15+ Years of Experience
  • Spot-On Currency Predictions
Read less
6
Halo Financial
Halo Financial: Excellent Currency Predictions
87.3%
Editorial rating

Global financial forecast symbol with globe, 3d render, white background

Types of transactions supported by Business Foreign Exchange specialist firms:
  1. Spot FX
  2. Multi-Currency Accounts (receiving business FX payments)
  3. Forward Currency Contract
  4. FX Swap
  5. FX Limit Order
  6. Other Hedging Tools
  7. FX risk management and treasury services
  8. In some cases, and only for hedging purposes those hedging tools include FX Options.

If you are looking to buy fx options then all of our top recommended providers have separately regulated options businesses with a dedicated FCA qualified team who are authorised to discuss and recommend different fx option hedging strategies. Through their options business enhanced capital control requirements also have to be met to ensure they have the liquidity to fund client contracts.

Note: all graphs are taken from TradingView – https://www.tradingview.com/
Options are a contract between two parties which give the buyer right, but no obligation, to buy or sell a currency pair at a fixed price and date.

How FX Options Work

If you are wondering how does an FX option work then in summary options are just as the name suggests – a contract between two parties which grants  the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell a currency pair at a fixed price and date.

Options are an important tool in minimising exposure to risk or in other words – hedging. It is similar to a Forward Contract or FX Swap in functionality but not in mechanism, has similarities to a Limit Order and is opposite to Spot Trades. There is also scope for using options as a leveraged instrument to make speculative gains while minimising the extent of losses.

FX Option Booking – Buying and Selling Options

Call options are a contract to have the option to buy a currency pair at a particular level. Put options are a contract to have the option to sell a currency pair at a particular level.

There are two sides to the option market as there needs to be a seller on the other side of any contract. Buyers pay a premium which is received by the option writer (seller). If the option expires as worthless, the writer will keep the premium, but will have to make a substantial pay-out if the option is exercised.

Individuals are likely to focus on buying fx options rather than writing contracts given the risks involved.

There is substantial leverage involved in options with sharp moves in prices in the underlying instrument change. In this context, there is a clear risk of over-trading and clear strategies are required.

How to Book  Foreign Exchange Options

The easiest and most common way to book foreign exchange options  is through currency brokers. Some of the large reputable brokers will offer the facility to book  FX options, especially money transfer companies that have a specialised business FX department. Offering the functionality for clients to buy FX options will require a different licensing than the license most FX companies hold. Corporate FX options comprise the overwhelming majority of FX options that are booked in the market. Our recommended providers will offer business FX options and possibly have one or two qualified dealers in the private client team should an individual wish to book an FX option.

Another common way to buy and sell options is through investment firms or stock brokers. You will need to have a margin account, and if you intend to write any options, you will have to deposit funds as security.

Very large customers may be able to trade directly on exchanges, although this is unlikely to be an option for retail or smaller corporate customers.

It is important to note that these options are traded over the counter and not through a regulated exchange. There is, therefore, the potential for different pricing across providers, although arbitrage opportunities should help narrow significant differences. Options are easily available for all the major currency pairs. There will be difficulties for more exotic currencies and options will be more expensive in the exotic currency pairs. In these circumstances alternative instruments such as forwards are likely to be preferable for corporate hedging.

FX Hedging Options

Vanilla or European options are the most basic form of option and can only be exercised at the expiry date. These options are cheaper and have some value when looking to hedge commercial exposures. In contrast, American options can be exercised at any point during the contract. These options are likely to be much more suitable for speculative trades given the ability to close out a contract early. More complicated options are available such as touch and no-touch contracts.

FX Option Booking Prices

Options are priced by formulas using the Black-Scholes model.

The variables used to determine the cost of an individual option are as follows:

  • Strike price
  • Interest rates for both underlying instruments
  • The time to the maturity date
  • Underlying volatility in the exchange rate

The time to maturity is important and it will be more expensive to buy an FX option further into the future given that there is more time for the underlying asset to change in value. Volatility is an important component as it is more expensive to buy an FX option when volatility is high given a higher structural risk that any particular price will be hit.

FX Option – Out of the Money Options.

Choosing the correct strike price is extremely important for cost and potential to make gains. It will be much cheaper to buy an option where the strike price is out of the money.

For example EUR/USD is trading at 1.1500. It will be very expensive to buy an option to buy at 1.1000 while there will be a much smaller premium to buy an option to buy at 1.2000.

FX Option Hedging Strategies

Contrarian view

Options can be particularly profitable for traders who tend to hold contrarian views. If there is one-sided sentiment within markets and low volatility, option positions are likely to provide value and pricing should also be relatively attractive, especially for out-of-the-money options. In particular, if a currency looks to be significantly undervalued, there is scope for buying call options on expectations that the currency will strengthen over time.

Speculative Gains

Options can be used an instrument to make speculative gains, especially when there seems to be scope for a substantial currency move.

There is an up-front cost to buying the option (the premium), but this cost is known and there is no further cost if the market moves against you.

Example

A trader believes that President Trump will be impeached and the dollar will decline sharply, possibly as far as the 100.00 level. In this case, an option can be bought to sell USD/JPY at 115.00. There will be a substantial profit if the dollar declines sharply while it will expire as worthless if the dollar strengthens.


Note: all graphs are taken from TradingView – https://www.tradingview.com/

Hedging FX Options 

An important use for FX options is a hedging instrument to protect against adverse currency moves, especially in the corporate sector.

If substantial revenue is expected in an overseas currency an FX option can be used to hedge  the company from any currency losses. This is particularly important to protect profit margins on large contracts.

In effect, the option premium can be seen as a cost in the contract. If the market moves in your favour by the time revenue is received, the option will be abandoned with a profit made on the spot market move.

If, however, the exchange rate moves against you, the option can be exercised to protect revenue.

Hedging with FX options can be used as an alternative to a forward rate and they are particularly attractive if there is uncertainty surrounding the revenue stream.  If a company takes out a forward contract and the expected revenue does not materialise, there is a potentially substantial cost if the market has moved against the company.

Example

A UK company has ordered machinery from Japan and will have to pay CHF0.5mn in August 2019. The company is concerned that the Swiss franc will strengthen from the spot rate of 1.2800 by the time the payment is due.

The company can, therefore, buy an option to sell 0.5mn of GBP/CHF at 1.2800 for August 2019.

If by that date GBP/CHF has declined sharply, the option will be exercised. If Sterling has strengthened, the option will not be exercised and the payment in Sterling terms will be lower.

It is important to note that there is always an element of taking a market view when using options which can be dangerous and a distraction from the business.


Note: all graphs are taken from TradingView – https://www.tradingview.com/

Managing big events

Options can be used to trade large binary events and it is particularly attractive if substantial market moves are expected. Pricing will be more attractive if there is an element of complacency in markets which is keeping volatility low.

A notable case in the short term is the UK Brexit debate and uncertainty surrounding the outcome. Sterling has the potential for a substantial move and heavy losses if the UK exits the EU in October 2019 without securing an exit deal. In contrast, the ability to secure a deal could trigger significant Sterling gains.

In this situation, options can be used to protect income and potentially make speculative gains.

If you believe a deal is likely and Sterling is set to strengthen, there is scope to buy an option to sell EUR/GBP at 0.9000. This would be particularly attractive in the case of an exporter receiving Euros given the need to protect export revenue.

If you believe there will be acrimonious failure and a Sterling slide, there is scope for buying an option to buy EUR/GBP at 0.9000 and above.


Note: all graphs are taken from TradingView – https://www.tradingview.com/

Hedging and speculation

Companies and individuals may look to combine hedging and speculation at the same time. The easiest way to achieve this is to take a larger option position than is necessary to protect commercial interests.

Example

A German company expects revenue from the US of $200,000 to be received in June 2019. The company is anxious to protect against the risk of a stronger Euro and its central position is that the Euro will strengthen.

An option position could be taken to buy EUR/USD at 1.1500 for $250,000 amid expectations that the Euro will strengthen to 1.2500.  The company has, therefore, protected its expected income and will secure a windfall gain if the Euro does strengthen.

 

Note: all graphs are taken from TradingView – https://www.tradingview.com/

Concluding Thoughts on FX Options

Corporate FX options could be a useful tool to hedge a business’ future currency requirements. In comparison to Forward Contracts, the level of risk is increased as options may expire at a loss, while with Forward Rates the price is constant and set. Just as the name suggests there is a huge variety of FX option hedging strategies but with additional risk, comes additional reward, and options can be served to speculate and benefit from currency movements that go in the “right” direction. We, however, would strongly recommend to minimise the usage of FX options as a currency hedging tool because FX rates and economic events, as binary as they may be, are difficult to predict.

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