Difference between Risk Appetite, Risk Capacity and Risk Tolerance!

By Angel Broking | Published on 22nd June 2021 | 87

Difference between Risk Appetite, Risk Capacity and Risk Tolerance!

When we start investing the basic aim is generate returns on our invested capital. In simple terms, Investing is basically about generating returns. However when we speak about generating returns there is an obvious factor attached to it – it is called as Risk. And remember Risk is directly proportional to returns. Simply put – higher the risk higher are the return. As we always say, risk is everywhere. In any asset class the risk persists. Be it the equity investment, precious metals, real estate or even the most traditional financial asset class Bank Fixed Deposit.

Just that the risk levels are different in different asset classes. Similarly, even the investors are different with respect to the levels of risk they are comfortable with. While there are different investors like aggressive, moderate and conservative investors. It is important for investors to understand their own risk profile. Simple reason being, at times there are also differences between the level of risk the investors think they are comfortable with, and the level of risk they actually are comfortable with. Everyone wants to generate higher returns, but is everyone able to take similar kind of risk?

Always remember, the investment choices that an individual makes should be aligned to their risk profile. The risk profile defines the level of risk that an investor is willing and able to take, which in turn will determine their asset allocation, choice of investment products and operational decisions such as rebalancing the portfolio and exiting an investment.

Financial Instruments ~Annualised Returns ~Post Tax Returns
Fixed Deposits 6.75% Post-tax (30.9%) return : 5.7 %
Debt income fund 8.07% Post-tax (20% after indexation) return: 6.5 to 7%
Balanced Funds 9.00%
Diversified equity fund 12.50% Tax-free returns
Employees Provident Fund  (EPF) 8.50% 12.7%
Public Provident Fund (PPF) 7.10% 10.5%
Equity Linked Savings Schemes (ELSS) 15.80% 22.8%                       Post 80C Benefit
National Pension System (NPS) 10 – 12 % 16.8%
Unit Linked Insurance Plan (ULIPS) 14.00% 21.6%
Endowment Plans 3.27% 4.7%

The investment is an act dependent on understanding two important aspects of risk. First is the risk appetite of the investor and second is the risk level of the investment option. Here we are going to focus on the first aspect of risk appetite of investors. Based on the risk appetite an investor can be divided in three major categories viz- Aggressive, Moderate and Conservative. While an aggressive investor takes higher risk to generate higher returns. A moderate investor tries to generate higher than risk free returns (better than traditional investments. A conservative investor would hardly take any risk and looks for risk free kind of investments. While this gives a broader classification the actual risk appetite depends on various factors. But before understanding those factors – let’s first understand the difference between three commonly used words for risk appetite. While many use them interchangeably the terms are different.

Risk appetite, risk capacity and risk tolerance

The investment choices that an individual makes should be aligned to their risk profile. The risk profile defines the level of risk that an investor is willing and most importantly is able to take. This in turn will determine their asset allocation to different mutual funds schemes. It will further decide the choice of investment products and further operational decisions like rebalancing the portfolio and exiting an investment if required. But before taking such calls it is important to understand the difference between risk appetite, risk capacity and risk tolerance.

Risk Appetite

Risk appetite is the willingness of an investor to take risks to achieve their strategic investment objectives or financial goals. The problem occurs when we are not able to measure the risk appetite and then invest in the wrong asset class. Take a simple example – everyone wants to buy an expensive car. But how many would be able to actually buy the same. So willingness to buy a different thing and ability to buy is completely different one. So simply put, the risk appetite of an investor must be aligned to their risk capacity, or their ability to take risk.

Risk Capacity

In terms of risk capacity, the capacity to take risk depends upon personal factors like the age of the investor, income levels and stability of income, the wealth of the investor, time to the goal, liquidity needs, dependents and few other factors. An investor with a high, stable income, saving for the retirement goal has a high capacity for risk. On the other hand, a person in a single income family with multiple dependents with not a very high income has a low risk capacity. Similarly, an investor with a high risk capacity may have a low or medium risk appetite and choose investment products accordingly. Such investors are willing to trade-off returns for lower risk. However if an investor with a low risk capacity has a high risk appetite and invests in higher risk products, then they may be taking on more risk than they can handle to garner better returns. Just imagine a significant fall in the value of the investments is likely to destabilize their overall financial situation at risk.

Risk Tolerance

The Risk tolerance of an investor defines the limits or boundaries of the risk that an investor is willing to take. For example, an investor may define their downside risk tolerance limit as a fall of 15 percent in the principal value invested. It is also known as the maximum drawdown one can accept in terms of investment. In simple terms, when this level of margin is breached, the investor is likely to implement measures to limit the loss such by exiting the investment or in some cases rebalancing the portfolio. Overall, the risk tolerance triggers operational decisions in managing the portfolio. For an investor to have a portfolio of investment that suits them, all these risk measures have to be determined and defined correctly.

Factors influencing the investor’s risk profile

The risk profile is dependent on broad factors like family information, personal information and most importantly financial information.

Family information

The family information is categorized into three factors viz – earning members, dependent members and lastly life expectancy.

In case of earning members the risk appetite increases as the number of earning members increases. In simple terms the risk appetite of single bread earners would be lower as compared to dual income home. The second factor here is dependent members. Risk appetite decreases as the number of dependent members’ increases. Even the life expectancy influences the risk appetite. Risk appetite is higher when life expectancy is longer.

Particulars Factor Influence on Risk Appetite
Family Information Earning Members Risk appetite increases as the number of earning members increases
Dependent Members Risk appetite decreases as the number of dependent members increases
Life expectancy Risk appetite is higher when life expectancy is longer

Personal information

First parameter here is age. Simple factor is that the earlier you start investing, the better it is. In early career the risk Taking capability is higher as life expectancy is longer and number of dependents are also lesser. Employability is also a prime factor. Well qualified and multi-skilled professionals can afford to take more risk as the employability chances would be better in this case. Here the nature of the job also influences the risk appetite. A person having a consistent job with growth prospects would have a higher risk appetite. After this the investor psyche also plays a vital role. To put it simply, daring and adventurous people are better positioned mentally, to accept the downsides that come with risk. Again the capacity and tolerance would be crucial here.

 

Particulars Factor Influence on Risk Appetite
Personal Information Age Lower the age, higher the risk that can be taken
Employability Well qualified and multi-skilled professionals can afford to take more risk
Nature of Job Those with steady jobs are better positioned to take risk
Psyche Daring and adventurous people are better positioned mentally, to accept the downsides that come with risk

Financial information

While the above two parameters are quite subjective, financial information is a very objective one. Capital base and regularity of income are two financial factors influencing the risk appetite. As for the capital base – bigger the game means bigger the appetite. In simple terms, Higher the capital base, better the ability to financially take the downsides that come with risk. Deep pockets usually come in handy to sustain through the volatility in markets.  People earning regular income can take more risk than those with unpredictable income streams. Someone having regular income can also go for systematic investment plans being continued for longer periods.

Particulars Factor Influence on Risk Appetite
Financial Information Capital base Higher the capital base, better the ability to financially take the downsides that come with risk
Regularity of Income People earning regular income can take more risk than those with unpredictable income streams

Conclusion

One may think about taking higher risk to garner higher returns. However it is better to understand your risk appetite, risk capacity and risk tolerance. Analyse the parameters like family information, personal information and financial information to make the right risk profile and then select the investment vehicle accordingly. If one is unable to access the risk profile it is advisable to take professional help. To select a right investment asset it is important to differentiate between risk appetite, risk capacity and risk tolerance.