Vanilla Options

Vanilla options are an agreement between two parties that gives the buyer of the option (which will be you in almost all circumstances), the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell one currency in exchange for another at an agreed exchange rate on a predetermined date. A premium is payable on vanilla options.

How vanilla options work

The buyer of a vanilla option nominates the currency pair, expiry date, notional amount and strike rate. Smart Currency Options Limited (SCOL) will calculate a premium payable by the buyer of the vanilla option. The premium is payable within two business days unless you select a deferred premium.

A deferred premium option is one that is settled at a date beyond the usual two business days (typically upon expiry of the contract). Please note that deferred premium vanilla options are not available to all SCOL customers.

Upon expiry of the vanilla option, the buyer will either exercise their right to transact, or will allow the option to expire worthless. More details of how this works are below:

  • If at the expiry date, the prevailing spot rate is less favourable than the strike rate of the option, it will be more advantageous for the buyer of the option to exercise his right to transact at the strike rate. SCOL allows customers to trade offsetting FX transactions to close in the money option positions in the event that the underlying exposure, and therefore the need to transact, has ceased
  • If at the expiry date the prevailing spot rate is more favourable than the strike rate of the option, it will be more advantageous for the buyer of the option to allow the option to expire worthless. This is because the spot rate will provide a better rate of exchange than the option’s strike rate

The premium is to be paid in full and by the premium due date detailed in the trade confirmation. Furthermore, settlement of an exercised option is required within two business days of expiry.

Vanilla options example:

A UK-based company imports materials from the US and needs to pay a supplier $500,000 in six months’ time.

1. Requirements

The company:

  • would like to benefit from a favourable exchange rate and 100% rate protection
  • is willing to pay a premium for this

2. Current Forward Rate

The forward rate for a six-month period is


3. Solution

The company buys a vanilla option for six months with a protected rate of 1.3250. The premium is


There are two possible scenarios

Scenario 1:

Unfavourable market moves

GBP/USD weakens. At maturity, the exchange rate is 1.2500. The company is entitled to buy the full $500,000 at 1.3250.

Vanilla Options unfavourable market moves graph

Scenario 2:

Favourable market moves

GBP/USD strengthens. At maturity, the exchange rate is 1.4575. The company lets its vanilla option expire and simply buys $500,000 at the market rate of 1.4575, thus benefiting from the 10% improvement in the currency exchange rate.

Vanilla Options favourable market moves graph

Advantages of vanilla options

  • Vanilla options provide protection against adverse movements in the exchange rate of the currency pair during the term of the contract
  • The buyer of a vanilla option is under no obligation to exchange currencies, and is therefore able to participate in all favourable exchange rate movements
  • Vanilla options are not subject to SCOL’s margin call policy, as bought vanilla options cannot carry a negative mark-to-market value
  • As the buyer of the option can select the strike, expiry and notional amount, vanilla options can be tailored to the exact needs of the buyer

Disadvantages of vanilla options

  • A non-refundable premium is payable upon the purchase of a vanilla option
  • At expiry or upon cancellation of a vanilla option, movements in the underlying exchange rate for the dealt currency pair, as well as the passage of time, could result in the option having a reduced value or no value at all
  • The total cost of transacting (the cost of the currency plus the premium) might be more expensive than the equivalent forward contract or other hedging product. The total cost (also known as the effective hedge rate) should be considered before entering into a vanilla option

Key facts

  • Not subject to deposit and/or variation margins

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Option contracts are offered by Smart Currency Options Limited (SCOL) on an execution-only basis. This means that you must decide if you wish to obtain such a contract, and SCOL will not offer you advice about these contracts.

This material provides you with generic and illustrative information and in no way can it be deemed to be financial, investment, tax, legal or other professional advice, a personal recommendation or an offer to enter into an option contract and it should not be relied upon as such. Any changes in exchange rates and interest rates may have an adverse effect on the value, price or structure of these instruments.

SCOL shall not be responsible for any loss arising from entering into an option contract based on this material. SCOL makes every reasonable effort to ensure that this information is accurate and complete but assumes no responsibility for and gives no warranty with regard to the same.

Foreign exchange options can carry a high degree of risk and are not suitable for everyone as they can have a negative impact on your capital. If you are in doubt as to the suitability of any foreign exchange product, SCOL strongly encourages you to seek independent advice from suitable financial advisers.

Consulting a website or receiving a publication does not constitute a customer relationship and SCOL shall not have any duty or incur any liability or responsibility towards any person or entity as a result thereof.

SCOL is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Smart Currency Exchange Limited, and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority to carry out MiFID business with reference number 656427.

SCOL is a private company limited by shares registered in England and Wales. Company number 9034947. The registered office address is at 1 Lyric Square, Hammersmith, London W6 0NB.