New Delhi: Markets regulator Sebi is considering linking retail investors’ exposure to derivatives with their income, a move aimed at preventing them from taking unreasonable positions in risky instruments.

The issue is expected to be discussed at the board meeting of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) this month, officials said. According to Sebi, trading turnover in these products has seen a sharp surge of over ten-fold over the past decade, during which the ratio of trades in equity derivatives to that of equity cash market has risen to over 15-times.

While a large number of individual investors are active in the derivatives segment, it has been observed that a number of them may not have an adequate financial capability to withstand risks posed by complex derivative instruments, Sebi said.

As per the proposal being considered, the total annual income can be made deciding factor for the exposure a retail investor can take into futures and options, the officials said. Besides, Sebi plans to address with the new norms any inefficiencies present in the market and any regulatory arbitrage that needs to be plugged.

Derivative in financial markets typically refers to a forward, future, option or any other hybrid contract of pre-determined fixed duration, linked for the purpose of contract fulfilment to the value of a specified real or financial asset or to an index of securities. Broadly, there are two types of derivative contracts—futures and options.

A futures contract means a legally binding agreement to buy or sell the underlying security on a future date, while options contract gives the buyer or holder of the contract the right (but not the obligation) to buy or sell the underlying asset at a predetermined price within or at end of a specified period. The markets watchdog in July last year had proposed to overhaul its rules for derivatives trading through a public consultation, including on suitability of these ‘more complex and risky’ products for individual investors.

“In the absence of a product suitability framework, this may not be in the interest of securities market," the regulator had said while inviting public comments by 10 August, 2017 on whether there was a need to introduce such a framework.

The comments had been sought on all issues related to trading in derivatives, participants’ profile, product mix and stock eligibility to further strengthen the framework in line with the emerging trends and global best practice.

The discussion paper had also sought to understand what measures would be required to create balanced participation in equity derivatives market and what could be the guiding principles for setting minimum contract size and open position limits for equity derivatives, considering the participants’ profile and other factors.

Besides, the process would decide whether Sebi needs to review existing criteria for introduction of derivatives on stocks or on indices and whether the present margin frameworks, as also trading and risk management frameworks, require any changes.

In fiscal 2016-17, the total turnover in equity cash market stood at about Rs60.5 lakh crore, whereas the same for equity derivatives was a staggering Rs944 lakh crore. While the cash market has grown at an annual compounded growth rate of 11% since 2004-05, the same for equity derivatives is over 35%.

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