Systematic Risk vs Unsystematic Risk

Differences Between Systematic Risk and Unsystematic Risk

The risk is the degree of uncertainty in any stage of life. For instance, while crossing the road, there is always a risk of getting hit by a vehicle if precautionary measures are not undertaken. Similarly, in the area of investment and finance, various risks exist since the hard-earned money of individuals and firms are involved in the cycle.

In this article, we shall be focussing on the differences between Systematic and Unsystematic Risk. These risks are inevitable in any financial decision, and accordingly, one should be equipped to handle them in case they occur.

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One should keep in mind the below formula, which in a nutshell highlights the importance of these 2 types of risks faced by all kinds of investors:Systematic Risk vs Unsystematic Risk formula

The above risks cannot be avoided, but the impact can be limited with the help of diversification of shares into different sectors for balancing the negative effects.

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Systematic Risk vs. Unsystematic Risk Infographics

Let us now have a look at the differences between Systematic Risk vs. Unsystematic Risk in infographics format.

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What is Systematic Risk?

It is the risk that highlights the possibility of a collapse of the entire financial system or the stock market causing a catastrophic impact on the entire system in the country. It refers to the risks caused by financial system instability, potentially catastrophic or idiosyncratic events to the interlinkages, and other interdependencies in the overall market.

Let us consider the below example for a clearer understanding:

E.g., Mr ‘A’ has made a portfolio constituting 500 shares of a Media company, 500 Corporate bonds, and 500 Government bonds. The Central Bank has announced a recent interest rate cut due to which Mr ‘A’ wants to reconsider the impact on his portfolio and how he can re-work around it. Given that the Beta of the portfolio is 2.0, it is assumed that portfolio returns will be fluctuating 2.0 times more than the market returns.

If the market spikes by 3%, the portfolio will increase by 3%*2.0 = 6%. On the other hand, if the market falls by 3%, the overall portfolio will also decrease by 6%. Accordingly, Mr ‘A’ will have to lower the exposure of stocks and perhaps increase exposure in bonds as the fluctuations are not sharp in bonds compared to stocks. The asset allocationAsset AllocationAsset Allocation is the process of investing your money in various asset classes such as debt, equity, mutual funds, and real estate, depending on your return expectations and risk tolerance. This makes it easier to achieve your long-term financial goals.read more can be considered 250 shares of Media firm, 500 Corporate Bonds, and 750 Municipal bonds. It may seem to be a defensive mode, but Municipal bondsMunicipal BondsA municipal bond is a debt security issued by a national, state, or local authority to finance capital expenditures on public projects related to the development and maintenance of infrastructures such as roads, railways, schools, hospitals, and airports.read more are perhaps the most secure in terms of a default offering stable returns.

Generally, risk-averse investors will prefer a portfolio of beta less than 1 so that they have to incur lower losses in case of a sharp market decline. On the other hand, risk-takers will prefer securities with high betas aiming for higher returns.

The sources of systematic risks can be:

Systematic risks are difficult to be mitigated since these are inherent in nature and not necessarily controlled by an individual or a group. There is no well-defined method for handling such risks. Still, as an investor, one can consider diversification into various securities to perhaps reduce the impact of idiosyncratic situations, causing a ripple effect of such risks.

What is Unsystematic Risk?

Also known as Diversifiable or Non-systematic risk, it is the threat related to a specific security or a portfolio of securities. Investors construct these diversified portfolios for allocating risks over various classes of assets. Let us consider an example of a clearer understanding:

On March 1, 2016, Mr. Matthew invests $50,000 in a diversified portfolio, which invests 50% in stocks of Automobile companies, 20% in I.T. stocks, and a balance of 30% in stocks of Airline companies. On February 28, 2017, the value of the portfolio is enhanced to $57,500 thereby bringing annual growth of 15% [$57,500 – $50,000 *100]

One fine day, he gets to know that one of the airlines has defaulted on employee salary payments due to which the employees are on strike, and other airlines are expected to follow the same tactic. The investor is worried and one option to be considered for Mr. Matthew is to either hold on to the investment with the expectation of the issue getting resolved or he can divert those funds to other sectors that are experiencing stability or maybe divert them in bond investments.

Some of the other examples of unsystematic risks are:

  • Change in regulations impacting one industry
  • The entry of a new competitor in the market
  • A firm forced to recall one of its products (E.g., the Galaxy Note 7 phone recalled by Samsung due to its battery turning flammable)
  • A company exposed to have made fraudulent activities with its financial statements (For instance, Satyam computers fudging their balance sheets)
  • An employee union tactic for senior management to meet their demands

The existence of unsystematic risks means the owner of a company’s securities is at risk of adverse changes in the value of those securities due to the risk caused by the organization. Diversification is one of the options to reduce the impact, but it will still remain subject to Systematic risk that impacts the whole market. More is the diversification; lower will be the residual risk in the overall position. Unsystematic risk is measured and managed through the implementation of various risk management tools, including the derivatives market. Investors can be aware of such risks, but various unknown types of risks can crop up at any time, thereby increasing the level of uncertainty.

Systematic Risk and Unsystematic Risk Differences

Let us understand the differences between Systematic Risk vs. Unsystematic Risk in detail:

  1. Systematic risk is the probability of a loss associated with the entire market or the segment. Whereas, Unsystematic risk is associated with a specific industry, segment, or security.
  2. Systematic riskSystematic RiskSystematic Risk is defined as the risk that is inherent to the entire market or the whole market segment as it affects the economy as a whole and cannot be diversified away and thus is also known as an “undiversifiable risk” or “market risk” or even “volatility risk”.read more is uncontrollable in nature since a large scale, and multiple factors are involved. Whereas, unsystematic risk is controllable as it is restricted to a particular section. Unsystematic risks are caused due to internal factors that can be controlled or reduced in a relatively short time.
  3. Systematic Risk affects many securities in the market due to widespread impact such as interest rate decreases by the Central Bank of a country. In contrast, Unsystematic riskUnsystematic RiskUnsystematic risk refers to risk that is generated in a specific company or industry and may not be applicable to other industries or the economy as a whole.  There are two types of unsystematic risk: business risk and financial risk.read more will affect the stock/securities of a particular firm or sector, e.g., the strike caused by the workers of the Cement industry.
  4. Systematic Risk can be substantially controlled through techniques like HedgingHedgingHedging is a type of investment that works like insurance and protects you from any financial losses. Hedging is achieved by taking the opposing position in the market.read more and Asset allocation. Conversely, unsystematic risk can be eliminated through diversification of a portfolioDiversification Of A PortfolioPortfolio diversification refers to the practice of investing in a different assets in order to maximize returns while minimizing risk. This way, the risk is kept to a minimal while the investor accumulates many assets. Investment diversification leads to a healthy portfolio.read more.
  5. Systematic Risk is divided into 3 categories, i.e., Interest Rate Risk, Purchasing Power risk, and Market risk. In contrast, Unsystematic risk is bifurcated into two broad categories, namely Business Risk and Financial RiskBusiness Risk And Financial RiskBusiness risk affects the value of a company via loss of market share or by new entrants who destroy our business. Financial risk is the risk of a company where the company is unable to manage its finances and goes bankrupt because of liquidity risk, market risk.read more.

Systematic Risk vs. Unsystematic Risk (Comparison Table)

Basis for Comparison between Systematic Risk vs. Unsystematic RiskSystematic RiskUnsystematic Risk
MeaningRisk/Threat associated  with the market or the segment as a wholeHazard associated with specific security, firm, or industry
ImpactA large number of securities in the marketRestricted to the specific company or industry
ControllabilityCannot be controlledControllable
HedgingAllocation of the assetsDiversification of the Portfolio
TypesInterest Risk and Market RiskFinancial and Business risk
Responsible FactorsExternalInternal
AvoidanceCannot be avoidedIt can be avoided or resolved at a quicker pace.

Conclusion

Any investment will have inherent risks associated with it, which cannot be avoided. Systematic Risk vs. Unsystematic Risk highlights these factors which have to be accepted while making any investment.

These risks do not have any specific definition, but it will be a part of any financial investment. Though both Systematic Risk and Unsystematic Risk these types of risks cannot be completely avoided, an investor needs to be vigilant and periodically re-balance their portfolio or diversify their investments so that if any catastrophic event takes place, the investor can be less impacted in case of adverse events but also maximize gains in case of positive announcements.

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This article has been a guide to the top differences between Systematic Risk vs. Unsystematic Risk. Here we also discuss the differences between the two with examples, infographics,  and comparison table. You may also have a look at the following articles to learn more –

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