Natural Hedge

Updated on April 4, 2024
Article byNanditha Saravanakumar
Edited byNanditha Saravanakumar
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Natural Hedge Meaning

A natural hedge is a common risk management strategy where investors take an opposite position in securities that have a negative correlation with each other. The main objective of this technique is to mitigate total losses. Investors and business organizations adopt it.

Natural Hedge

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The logic behind hedging is that the gain from the counter-position will offset the loss from an investment. Therefore, the investor creates an assured cash inflow stream and reduces the extent of the loss. Further, natural hedging does not require any sophisticated financial securities like derivatives.

Key Takeaways

  • The natural hedge definition involves managing risk by investing in financial securities with a negative correlation to offset potential losses.
  • It is a widely adopted risk mitigation technique employed by investors and companies across various industries and markets, including trading, businesses, and the forex market.
  • It is a financial hedging strategy that utilizes existing correlations between securities. Financial hedging can involve various techniques and instruments, including derivatives, and the choice depends on the specific circumstances and expertise required.
  • Its primary objective is to mitigate risks associated with factors such as currency fluctuations, commodity prices, or interest rates.

Natural Hedge Explained

A natural hedge can be explained in three areas – investments, business, and economy. Firstly, when investors naturally hedge their investments, they do so by choosing diverse assets from different classes. Portfolio diversification is an appropriate example. Stocks and bonds are the best natural hedging options for investors.

Stocks are risky, and they might not give any returns. But bonds are less risky and can provide assured returns in most cases. So, if the stock performs well, the investor will earn profits from it and the bonds. If the stocks do not perform well, the investor will still have earnings from bonds.

The second scenario is a natural hedge in the forex market. Firms operating in one country but selling in another are subject to currency devaluation risks. They can reduce their losses by shifting operations to their market country. Thus, they wouldn’t have to face any cross-currency transactions.

Another case is when a company from a particular country operates in another country and borrows from the former’s banks. It might face losses in the transaction. The company can naturally hedge by lending in the operating region to fund its operations.

Finally, a natural hedge against inflation is a standard resort for the public. Inflation is a significant economic concern. With rising prices and falling disposable income and savings, people want to protect their assets. One of the best inflationary hedge securities is gold, real estate, and government bonds, which outperform inflation.

While a natural hedge is an excellent technique to manage risk and mitigate losses, the risk-return correlation will reduce the returns as the risk declines. It is a trade-off, and it is up to the individual or entity to choose between (a) high profits and total loss or (b) decent and moderate losses.

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Here are a few examples to understand the concept.

Example #1

Lara is an investor who started investing only four months ago. With the returns from her previous investments, she wanted to purchase a high-performing stock of company X at $199. Her financial adviser, Jane, suggested that she buy a bond from another company, Y, at $200, which assured returns of 12%.

This setup allows Lara to implement a natural hedge. If the stock of company X does not provide any returns or performs poorly, Lara will still receive interest payments from the bond of company Y. This helps protect her from making a total loss. On the other hand, if the stock performs well, Lara stands to make double the profits since the bond acts as a safety net.

By combining the stock and bond investments, Lara diversifies her portfolio and reduces the overall risk.

Example #2

Let us understand through one more real-world example. An investor implements a pair trade strategy as a natural hedge. They take a long position in The GEO Group (GEO) while simultaneously shorting CoreCivic (CXW), another company in the same industry. This pair trade allows the investor to offset industry-specific risks and potentially benefit from the relative performance of the two stocks.

By implementing a pair trading strategy with a long position in The GEO Group (GEO) and a short position in CoreCivic (CXW), the investor aims to capitalize on the relative performance of the two stocks not only potentially but also effectively creates a natural hedge against industry-specific risks.

This approach allows them to optimize their hedging program by taking advantage of the negative correlation between the two companies. As market conditions change, implementing natural hedges like this can give investors a risk management tool to navigate volatility and potential downturns in specific sectors.

Advantages And Disadvantages

Here’s a comparative study of the merits and demerits of natural hedges.

#1 – Advantages

  1. It can help ensure that investors don’t incur losses. They can generate high or decent profits, depending on the performance of the hedged positions.
  2. For businesses operating in multiple countries, it can help mitigate losses in cross-currency transactions by aligning revenues and expenses in the same currency.
  3. While initial costs may be associated with establishing it, they can yield significant long-term profitability.
  4. It provides a robust defense against market fluctuations and volatility.

#2 – Disadvantages

  1. Implementing it involves additional costs, such as acquiring assets to hedge against others. For example, buying a bond to hedge against a stock will incur additional investment costs.
  2. While they can reduce risk exposure, they may also lead to a decline in overall profitability due to the trade-off between risk and return.
  3. It may be less effective in fully mitigating risks than financial hedging methods, as they rely on the inherent relationships between assets or factors.

Financial Hedge vs Natural Hedge

Financial and natural hedging share similarities but also have distinct characteristics. Let’s explore the differences between these two approaches to risk management.

  1. Natural hedging involves straightforward measures requiring less effort and thought than financial hedging. It is generally less expensive to implement. Financial hedging is more complex and utilizes sophisticated financial instruments. As a result, it tends to be more costly than natural hedging.
  2. Natural hedges can be created using stocks and bonds, while hedges rely on derivatives like futures, options, and other contracts.
  3. Natural hedging involves simple decisions like multi-currency loans in forex and business contexts. Financial hedging in these areas may apply more complex strategies like currency swaps and forward contracts, requiring extensive financial knowledge and expertise. Consulting a financial adviser can be beneficial for businesses engaging in financial hedging.
  4. Natural hedging is often considered a suitable option for smaller businesses and amateur investors due to its lower costs. In contrast, experienced investors and large corporations may opt for financial hedging because of its potentially higher effectiveness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How does a nonsymmetric hedge differ from a natural hedge?

A nonsymmetric hedge, such as insurance, transfers investment risk to another party, typically a third party. On the other hand, a natural hedge is a risk-mitigating technique that does not involve a third party or risk transfer. It relies on internal factors within an individual or entity’s portfolio or operations to offset or minimize risks.

2. How to calculate natural hedge?

The concept of natural hedging itself does not involve a specific calculation. However, it can be expressed in terms of the investment cost of the second financial security. The particular calculation method may vary based on individual preferences and circumstances.

3. What is a natural hedge, as per RBI?

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) defines natural hedging in the context of companies’ foreign currency exposure (FCE). According to the RBI, natural hedging occurs when a company’s operations generate cash flows that offset the risk from FCE. The offsetting exposure should have a maturity or cash flow within the same accounting year.

This article has been a guide to Natural Hedge and its meaning. We explain its examples, comparison with financial hedge, advantages, & disadvantages. You may also find some useful articles here –

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