Systematic and Unsystematic Risks: How to Mitigate Them

There are always risks in the business world. Understanding these risks enables us to seek the most effective approaches to mitigate them. What are these risks and how can they be categorized?

There are two major components of risk: systematic and unsystematic. Let’s explore each risk and learn the best way to mitigate it.

Systematic Risk
Systematic risk, also known as “market risk” or “un-diversifiable risk”, is a result of external and uncontrollable variables, which are not industry or security specific. Generally unavoidable, it affects the entire market leading to the fluctuation in prices of all the securities. The risk can be attributed to a number of broad economic factors such as inflation, changes in interest rates, fluctuations in currencies, recessions, etc.

Since systematic risks cannot be controlled, investors can avoid them by staying away from all risky investments.

Financial Planning- Mitigating Systematic Risk
Systematic risks can be mitigated with certain courses of action. How can they be mitigated?

Asset allocation can partially mitigate systematic risks. Owning different asset categories (i.e. bonds, cash, commodities, etc.) with low or zero correlation helps because they reach differently to macroeconomic factors; some asset categories may increase and others may fall.

Asset allocation should also be adjusted according to valuations. Investments that are overpriced should be avoided or owned less. When mitigating systematic risks within a diversified portfolio, cash may be the most important and under-appreciated asset category.

Another way to reduce systematic risk is through hedging. Investors can use options such as purchasing protective puts on their securities. A protective put is risk-management strategy that investors use to guard against the loss of unrealized gains. Put value will rise if securities value drops. However, options are for a certain time and once they expire, investors need to buy new ones to stay hedged.

Unsystematic Risk
In contrast, unsystematic risk refers to risk factors that are specific to a company, industry and sector, and can be controlled to a certain degree. These factors include a company’s management, financial practices, financial health, and its competitive position in the market.

Financial Planning- Mitigating Unsystematic Risk
Unsystematic risk can be reduced by diversifying. To achieve this, the investor can diversify its product portfolio so the revenues are not solely dependent from a few products only. Much risk is reduced when an investor’s risk is spread among different industries (such as banking or healthcare) and asset classes. For example, if an investor owns a diversified portfolio of more than 10 individual investments as opposed to only one, the damage done to their portfolio is minimized when something negative happens to some of the companies.

Again, unsystematic risk can be nearly eliminated by diversification as it is not correlated to market risk.

Both systematic and unsystematic risks are part and parcel of businesses. Through risk management solutions as mentioned above, these risks can be partially mitigated, and investors will be able to see an increase in portfolio returns and optimization in investment portfolio.