Measurement of Systematic and Unsystematic Risk

The risk is the degree of uncertainty in any stage of life. For instance, while crossing the road, there is always a risk of getting hit by a vehicle if precautionary measures are not undertaken. Similarly, in the area of investment and finance, various risks exist since hard-earned money of individuals and firms are involved in the cycle.

  • Systematic Risk does not have a specific definition but is inherent risk existing in the stock market. These risks are applicable to all the sectors but can be controlled. If there is an announcement or event which impacts the entire stock market, a consistent reaction will flow in which is a systematic risk. For e.g. if Government Bonds are offering a yield of 5% in comparison to the stock market which offers a minimum return of 10%. Suddenly, the government announces an additional tax burden of 1% on stock market transactions, this will be a systematic risk impacting all the stocks and may make the Government bonds more attractive.
  • Unsystematic Risk is an industry or firm-specific threat in each kind of investment. It is also known as “Specific Risk”, “Diversifiable risk” or “Residual Risk”. These are risks which are existing but are unplanned and can occur at any point of causing widespread disruption. For e.g. if the staff of the airline industry goes on an indefinite strike, then this will cause risk to the shares of the airlines industry and fall in the prices of the stock impacting this industry.

One should keep in mind the below formula which in a nutshell highlights the importance of these 2 types of risks faced by all kinds of investors:

The above risks cannot be avoided but the impact can be limited with the help of diversification of shares into different sectors for balancing the negative effects.

Systematic Risk

This is the risk which highlights the possibility of a collapse of the entire financial system or the stock market causing a catastrophic impact on the entire system in the country. It refers to the risks caused by financial system instability, potentially catastrophic or idiosyncratic events to the interlinkages and other interdependencies in the overall market.

The sources of systematic risks can be:

  • Political instability or other Governmental decision having widespread impact
  • Economic crashes and Recession
  • Changes in taxation laws
  • Natural Disasters
  • Foreign Investment policies

Systematic risks are difficult to be mitigated since these are inherent in nature and not necessarily controlled by an individual or a group. There is no well-defined method for handling such risks but as an investor, one can consider diversification into various securities to perhaps reduce the impact of idiosyncratic situations causing a ripple effect of such risks.

Unsystematic Risk

Also known as Diversifiable or Non-systematic risk, it is the threat related to a specific security or a portfolio of securities. Investors construct these diversified portfolios for allocating risks over various classes of assets. 

Some of the other examples of unsystematic risks are:

  • Change in regulations impacting one industry
  • The entry of a new competitor in the market
  • A firm forced to recall one of its products (For e.g. the Galaxy Note 7 phone recalled by Samsung due to its battery turning flammable)
  • A company exposed to have made fraudulent activities with its financial statements (For instance Satyam computers fudging their balance sheets)
  • A employee union tactic for the senior management to meet their demands

The existence of unsystematic risks means the owner of a company’s securities is at a risk of adverse changes in the value of those securities due to the risk caused by the organisation. Diversification is one of the options to reduce the impact but it will still remain subject to Systematic risk that impacts the market as a whole. More is the diversification, lower will be the residual risk in the overall position. Unsystematic risk is measured and managed through the implementation of various risk management tools, including the derivatives market. Investors can be aware of such risks but various unknown types of risks can crop up at any time thereby increasing level of uncertainty.

Systematic Risk and Unsystematic Risk Differences

Let us understand the differences between Systematic Risk vs Unsystematic Risk in detail:

  1. Systematic risk is the probability of a loss associated with the entire market or the segment whereas Unsystematic risk is associated with a specific industry, segment or security.
  2. Systematic risk is uncontrollable in nature since large scale and multiple factors are involved whereas unsystematic risk is controllable as it is restricted to a particular section. Unsystematic risks are caused due to internal factors which can be controlled or reduced in a relatively short span of time.
  3. Systematic Risk affects a large number of securities in the market due to widespread impact such as interest rate decreases by the Central Bank of a country whereas Unsystematic risk will affect the stock/securities of a particular firm or sector e.g. strike caused by the workers of a Cement industry.
  4. Systematic Risk can be substantially controlled through techniques like Hedging and Asset allocation. Conversely, unsystematic risk can be eliminated through diversification of portfolio.
  5. Systematic Risk is divided into 3 categories i.e. Interest Rate Risk, Purchasing Power risk and Market risk whereas Unsystematic risk is bifurcated into two broad categories namely Business Risk and Financial Risk.

Systematic Risk vs Unsystematic Risk (Comparison Table)

  Systematic Risk Unsystematic Risk
Meaning Risk/Threat associated  with the market or the segment as a whole Hazard associated with specific security, firm or industry
Impact Large number of securities in the market Restricted to the specific company or industry
Controllability Cannot be controlled Controllable
Hedging Allocation of the assets Diversification of the Portfolio
Types Interest Risk and Market Risk Financial and Business specific risk
Responsible Factors External Internal
Avoidance Cannot be avoided Can be avoided or resolved at a quicker pace.


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