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Managing Your Trading Risk: What Is Risk Management?

When entering the volatile world of CFD trading, it is crucial to recognise both the inherent risks involved with this arena as well as take the time to learn about the various ways that may assist in managing risk. While results are never guaranteed, in this article we will delve into some key definitions and ways that CFD traders attempt to mitigate trading risk.

An illustration of a risk levels gauge managed by a trader

What Is Risk Management?

Risk management in the context of Contracts for Difference (CFD) trading is a critical aspect that encompasses a series of strategic measures aimed at identifying, assessing, and mitigating the uncertainties inherent in investment decisions.

At its core, it involves vigilant monitoring and proactive handling of the financial risks associated with engaging in CFD trading, which can range from market volatility to geopolitical events impacting asset prices.

In addition, in the realm of CFD trading, where potential gains can be significant but losses equally so, effective risk management is paramount. It begins with the meticulous identification of various risks that could affect the performance of CFD positions, whether they stem from market fluctuations, regulatory changes, or macroeconomic shifts. Through rigorous analysis, traders evaluate the likelihood and potential magnitude of these risks, striving to grasp the intricate interplay between risk and reward.

One fundamental principle of risk management in CFD trading, as in any investment endeavour, is the acknowledgement that risk and return are inherently linked. Embracing this relationship, traders must navigate the delicate balance between seeking opportunities for profit and safeguarding against adverse market movements. This necessitates the implementation of diverse risk management strategies tailored to the unique characteristics of CFD trading.

In assessing risk, traders often rely on statistical measures such as standard deviation to gauge the dispersion of returns around an expected value. By quantifying uncertainty, they gain insights into the potential downside of their investment decisions, enabling them to make informed choices aligned with their risk tolerance and financial objectives.

Furthermore, effective risk management extends beyond individual trade considerations to encompass broader portfolio management practices. Diversification, asset allocation, and judicious position sizing are among the strategies employed to spread risk across different assets and minimise the impact of adverse market movements on overall portfolio performance.

Ultimately, diligent risk management not only mitigates the likelihood of substantial losses but also fosters resilience and stability in CFD trading activities. Conversely, neglecting or inadequately managing risks can expose traders to severe financial repercussions, underscoring the critical importance of integrating robust risk management practices into CFD trading strategies.

Risk Management’s Importance in Trading

Now that we’ve defined some key aspects of risk management, let’s take a deeper look at why it can be so important to CFD traders as they enter this arena. Risk management holds paramount importance in CFD trading due to the inherent volatility and complexity of financial markets. CFD trading involves speculating on price movements of various assets without owning the underlying asset, amplifying both profit potential and risk exposure. Without effective risk management, traders face heightened susceptibility to market fluctuations, regulatory changes, and unforeseen events, jeopardising their capital and investment objectives.

As such, by implementing robust risk management practices, traders can mitigate potential losses while striving to maximise the probability of achieving desired financial outcomes. This entails meticulously identifying, analysing, and proactively addressing the diverse risks associated with CFD trading, including market volatility, liquidity risks, and counterparty risks.

Furthermore, risk management fosters discipline and rational decision-making amidst the inherent uncertainty of financial markets. It encourages traders to approach trading activities with a structured framework, incorporating strategies such as position sizing, stop-loss orders, and portfolio diversification to safeguard against adverse market movements.

Moreover, effective risk management enhances overall portfolio resilience and longevity, potentially assisting traders in weathering market downturns. By prudently managing risk, traders may be better placed to navigate risk-return trade-offs, potentially capitalise on market opportunities, and maintain financial stability throughout their CFD trading endeavours.

Ultimately, in the dynamic and competitive landscape of CFD trading, integrating comprehensive risk management practices is essential for mitigating downside risk, preserving capital, and achieving sustainable investment success.

What Are the Risks of Trading?

In the realm of finance, Contracts for Differences (CFDs) represent leveraged products, offering traders the opportunity to speculate on the price movements of various assets without owning the underlying securities. This leverage, while it offers amplified returns with a small initial investment, also amplifies the risks inherent in CFD trading, potentially leading to substantial losses alongside profits.

Among the risks associated with CFD trading are counterparty risk, market risk, and liquidity risk.

  • Counterparty Risk: When engaging in CFD trading, traders essentially enter into contracts with CFD providers, exposing themselves to the provider's counterparties and other clients. Should the provider fail to meet some or all of its financial obligations, it may result in the trader facing significant losses. A provider's credibility hinges on factors such as reputation, having sufficient financial resources and regulatory compliance, emphasising the importance of thorough due diligence before selecting a CFD provider.

  • Market Risk: CFDs are derivative instruments linked to the performance of underlying assets such as stocks, subjecting traders to market volatility and unpredictability. Despite informed speculation, unforeseen events, changes in market conditions, or government policies can lead to rapid and adverse fluctuations in asset values. Even minor changes in market conditions can have outsized impacts on returns, potentially triggering margin calls or necessitating premature position closures at a loss.

  • Liquidity Risks and Gapping: Insufficient market liquidity for underlying assets can render CFD contracts illiquid, compelling providers to demand additional margin payments or close contracts at less-than-optimal prices. Additionally, the fast-paced nature of financial markets can result in "gapping," where the execution price significantly differs from the agreed-upon price, leading to suboptimal outcomes for traders.

To sum it all up, while CFD trading presents profit opportunities, it also entails substantial risks which may lead to losses. Employing risk mitigation tools like stop-loss orders can help manage these risks, but traders must remain vigilant and acknowledge the potential for significant losses inherent in leveraged products like CFDs. Understanding and assessing these risks is paramount for informed decision-making and prudent risk management in CFD trading.

Types of Risk Management

Navigating the dynamic landscape of Contracts for Differences (CFDs) trading demands a comprehensive grasp of risk management strategies. In this context, risk management extends beyond mere speculation to encompass meticulous evaluation and strategic decision-making. Two fundamental approaches to risk management in CFD trading revolve around Beta and Passive Risk Management, as well as Alpha and Active Risk Management. Each method offers unique insights and tools for traders to navigate the complexities of the market.

Beta & Passive Risk Management

One type of CFD trading risk management revolves around behavioural tendencies, and is known as ‘drawdown.’ Drawdown refers to any period during which an asset's return is negative relative to a previous high mark. It assesses the magnitude, duration, and frequency of negative periods, providing insight into the asset's risk profile.

Beta, another critical metric, evaluates market risk or volatility. It utilises covariance statistics, with a beta greater than 1 indicating higher volatility than the market and a beta less than 1 suggesting lower volatility. Beta aids in distinguishing between passive and active risk. Passive risk, quantified by beta, is the level of risk inherent in a portfolio's correlation with the market, while active risk, or alpha, is the excess return achieved beyond the market's performance.

Alpha & Active Risk Management

Alpha, the measure of excess return, is pursued by investment managers or traders employing an active strategy. This excess return is attained through various tactics such as asset selection, sector analysis, and technical or fundamental analysis. Alpha risk accompanies these strategies, representing the uncertainty surrounding trading outcomes. For instance, if a CFD investor increases the portfolio's weighting in the energy sector anticipating outperformance, unexpected economic developments could lead to underperformance relative to the benchmark.

In summary, risk management in CFD trading encompasses evaluating drawdowns, understanding beta as a measure of market risk, and actively seeking alpha through strategic investment decisions. Active managers aim to capitalise on opportunities to generate excess returns but expose investors to the risk of potential underperformance if their bets do not materialise as anticipated.

Plus500 Risk Management Tools

Plus500 provides CFD traders with a range of effective risk management tools to enhance control over their positions:

  • Close at Profit and Close at Loss Orders: These orders enable traders to set predetermined exit points for their positions. A 'Close at Profit' order allows traders to secure profits by specifying a target price at which their position will automatically close, while a 'Close at Loss' order minimises potential losses by setting a price level at which the position will close to limit further downside. It's important to note that execution may not occur at the exact specified price due to market volatility, potentially resulting in slippage.

  • Guaranteed Stop Orders: This tool imposes an absolute limit on potential losses by ensuring that a trader's position will automatically close at a specified price, regardless of market conditions. Guaranteed Stop orders come with an additional spread charge and are only available for certain instruments.

  • Trailing Stop Orders: With Trailing Stop orders, traders can automatically adjust their Close at Loss order as the market moves in their favour. This feature helps lock in profits while limiting potential losses. Traders can set parameters to adjust the Close at Loss order based on predefined criteria, ensuring effective risk management throughout the trading process.

For more information about these tools, please visit our dedicated risk management tools page.

Risk Management Strategies: Ways to Manage Your Risk

Navigating the complexities of CFD trading requires diligent risk management strategies to safeguard capital and optimise trading performance. Below we’ll look at a few common ways traders tailor their trading behaviour given the inevitable risks inherent in CFD trading:

  • One-Percent Rule: A fundamental principle in risk management for CFD traders is the one-percent rule. This guideline suggests allocating no more than 1% of your trading capital to a single trade. For instance, if you have a $10,000 trading account, each position should not exceed $100. This approach helps mitigate the impact of individual trade losses on your overall portfolio. Many traders, particularly those with smaller accounts, adhere to this rule diligently, though some may extend the limit to 2% depending on their risk tolerance and financial capacity. By adhering to the one-percent rule, traders aim to safeguard their capital and prevent significant drawdowns from adversely affecting their trading performance.

  • Calculating Expected Return: Another vital aspect of risk management in CFD trading is calculating the expected return of each trade. This calculation involves estimating the potential gains and losses based on predefined stop-loss and take-profit points. By quantifying the expected return, traders gain a systematic framework for evaluating trade opportunities and rationalising their decision-making process. The formula [(Probability of Gain) x (Take Profit % Gain)] + [(Probability of Loss) x (Stop-Loss % Loss)] helps traders assess the risk-reward ratio of each trade objectively. Whether based on historical data or trader intuition, estimating probabilities allows traders to compare and prioritise trades with the highest expected returns, enhancing overall trading efficiency and profitability.

  • Diversification: Diversification is a cornerstone of risk management strategy in CFD trading. By spreading investments across different asset classes, industry sectors, and geographic regions, traders can reduce the impact of adverse market movements on their portfolios. Diversification helps minimise concentration risk and enhances the potential for stable, long-term returns. Instead of allocating all capital to a single trade or asset, traders allocate resources across a range of opportunities, ensuring that losses from underperforming assets are offset by gains from others. This prudent approach to portfolio construction is essential for mitigating risk and preserving capital in volatile market conditions.

  • Hedging: Hedging is a risk management technique used by CFD traders to protect against adverse price movements in their positions. It involves opening a position or taking action to offset potential losses in another position. For example, traders may hedge their exposure to a particular asset by taking an opposing position in related derivatives or options contracts. By hedging, traders aim to minimise downside risk while retaining the potential for gains in their primary position. This strategic approach allows traders to navigate uncertain market conditions with greater confidence and resilience, reducing the impact of market volatility on their overall trading performance.


In the dynamic world of CFD trading, understanding and managing risk are paramount for success. Employing and refining various strategies as well as making use of available risk management tools can be crucial for CFD traders. While risks are inherent, proactive risk management is key to achieving sustainable investment outcomes. By acknowledging the interplay between risk and reward, traders can strike a delicate balance, maximising opportunities while mitigating potential downsides. Ultimately, integrating robust risk management practices into CFD trading strategies is a key part of any market participant's trading journey.


What is risk management in trading?

Risk management in trading involves implementing strategic measures to identify, assess, and mitigate uncertainties associated with investment decisions, aiming to safeguard capital and optimise trading performance.

What is the difference between "Stop Loss and Stop Limit"?

Stop loss is an order placed to sell a security when it reaches a certain price, limiting losses, while stop limit is a conditional order to buy or sell a security once it reaches a specified price, with a limit on the price paid or received.

How do you calculate risk when trading?

Risk in trading can be calculated by estimating potential gains and losses based on predefined stop-loss and take-profit points, utilising a systematic framework such as [(Probability of Gain) x (Take Profit % Gain)] + [(Probability of Loss) x (Stop-Loss % Loss)].

What is the One-Percent rule in risk management?

The One-Percent rule suggests allocating no more than 1% of total trading capital to a single trade, aiming to mitigate the impact of individual trade losses on the overall portfolio, thus safeguarding capital and preventing significant drawdowns.

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