How Are Options Settled
When you buy or sell options in the F&O market, it looks like a simple case of one-click screen trading. But there is a huge process that goes behind the trade. Trades have to be marked to market and positions closures have to be adjusted in terms of profits / losses in individual account. Premiums need to be collected from buyers of options and margins to be collected from sellers of options. All these fall under the broad process called options clearing and options settlement.
The settlement of options tends to be asymmetric because the risks and liability profiles of the buyer and seller of the options is different. Here we look at settlement of options contracts in detail as well as the steps in the option settlement process. Settlement of options contracts is something that has to happen on a continuous basis and we will look at this aspect of the option settlement process in greater detail.
HOW OPTIONS ARE SETTLED?
To understand settlement of options you need to break up the buy side and the sell side of the option distinctly. When a person buys a call or put option, the maximum loss is the premium paid. Hence the settlement of options on buy side begins with premium settlement and then you are done till the position is closed or expires. However, options settlement for sell side is more complex. Firstly, there is the initial margin settlement upfront, then there is the MTM settlement that takes place on a daily basis and at the end of it all there is the final options settlement that happens when the position is reversed or left to expiry.
Nuances of MTM options settlement
Like in the case of long and short futures positions, the sell options settlement entails adjustment of daily MTM or mark-to-market margins. Like the futures contracts, all options sell contracts will also be marked to market on a daily basis and shortfall in margins have to be brought in. MTM margins are applied on the relative change in price between the positions today compared to the close on the previous day. As stated earlier, this daily MTM options settlement will only apply for selling options and not for buying options.
Two types of options settlement
Settlement of options can be broadly divided into daily premium settlement and final exercise settlement. Let us look at these two types of options settlement in greater detail for our understanding.
In the daily premium settlement, the buyer of the call or put option is obliged to pay the full premium towards the purchase of the option. The premium will be received by the seller of the option and is the maximum profit that the seller will make and compensates for the risk taken. Normally, when the daily premium settlement is done at the level of the clearing broker, the total premium payable and total premium receivable are netted against each other to arrive at the final figure of net premium payable or receivable as the case may be.
Final exercise settlement is applicable to all the long in-the-money positions that are open at the close of the contract. Remember, all OTM positions will automatically expire worthless and in such cases, the buyer loses the entire premium and the seller earns the entire premium. In the case of all the ITM options, they are deemed to be exercised and automatically assigned to short positions in option contracts with the same series. This assignment is done on a random basis. This is an important part of the settlement process for options.
In the past, stock options used to be American options while index options used to be European options. However, that has changed since 2010 with both index option and stock options being converted to European options.
This is how the final settlement takes place as excise settlement. In case of all options settlement contracts, open buy positions at ITM strikes are automatically exercised on the expiration day and assigned to short positions in option contracts on a random basis. Final exercise is automatically effected by the clearing corporation of the stock exchange. The exercise settlement value is normally the difference between the strike price and the final settlement price of the relevant option contract. Today, all settlement of exercises of options is by payment in cash and not by delivery of securities.
HOW TO TRADE IN OPTIONS?
Traders can buy and sell options on the internet trading system by just selecting the right stock / contract, strike and expiry and executing the order. After that the process flow is the same. Your premium margins in case of buy options and initial margins in case of sell options are blocked upfront by the system before allowing you to execute the trade.
WHAT ARE NAKED OPTIONS?
Naked options are opposed to hedged positions and can be seen as purely speculative positions. A hedge position is where you buy or sell an option to protect the risk in an underlying position. In naked options, you take a pure speculative position via options based on your view.
Frequently Asked Questions Expand All
By default, all trades on the futures and options segment have daily settlement where mark to market or MTM margins is applicable i.e., for long futures, short futures and short options.
Clearing house clears the contracts on behalf of the stock exchange and also acts as a counterparty to every trade virtually ensuring there is no default at exchange level.
You have time till the expiry to settle your option at any point of time. On expiry, the clearing house will do the exercise settlement of options by default.