Differences Between Equity and Derivatives

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  • 27 Sep 2023

Equity and derivatives are different financial instruments that serve different purposes in the stock market. Equity represents ownership in a company, affording shareholders rights and responsibilities tied to the company's performance. On the other hand, derivatives are financial instruments whose value derives from an underlying asset.

Key Highlights

  • The primary purpose of equity is capital appreciation and ownership, while derivatives are used for hedging, speculation, and leveraging.

  • Equity performance is influenced by company and market trends, while derivatives strategies may adapt based on current market conditions.

  • Equity relies on a simple ownership concept, whereas a more profound understanding is essential for derivatives due to the complexities involved in financial contracts.

Equity, often referred to as stocks or shares, represents ownership in a company. When you own shares of a company's stock, you have equity in that company, which means you have a claim on its assets and earnings. Some important aspects of equity are as follows:

  • Ownership: When you buy equity in a company, you become a partial owner. Your returns are linked to the company's performance, including profits and losses.

  • Risk and Reward: Equity investments come with both the potential for high returns and higher levels of risk. Stock prices can fluctuate due to market conditions and company performance.

  • Dividends: Equity investors may receive dividends, a portion of the company's profits distributed to shareholders. These payments can provide a steady income stream.

  • Voting Rights: Depending on the type of equity you hold, you may have the right to vote on specific company issues, such as the election of the board of directors.

Derivatives, on the other hand, are financial contracts whose value is derived from an underlying asset. You can use these contracts for hedging, speculation, or arbitrage. key aspects of derivatives are explained as follows:

  • No Ownership: Unlike equity, derivatives do not grant ownership in the underlying asset. Instead, they provide a way to speculate on price movements without owning the asset itself.

  • Leverage: Derivatives often allow traders to use leverage, which means you can control a larger position with a relatively small amount of capital. While this can amplify profits, it also increases the potential for losses.

  • Types of Derivatives: Various derivatives exist, including options and futures. With options, you have the right but not any obligation to purchase or sell an asset at a prespecific price.

  • Risk Profile: Derivatives are known for their complexity and can carry substantial risks. They warrant a thorough understanding of the market and the instruments themselves.

Equities and derivatives have different risk profiles, and understanding such variances enables investors to construct diversified portfolios that align with their risk tolerance and financial objectives. The key differences between equity and derivatives are explained as follows.


Represents ownership in a company

Don’t grant ownership rights


Typically held for the long-term

Used for short-term speculation, hedging or arbitrage


Though subject to market risks, it is comparatively less than derivatives

Involves higher level of risk due to complexity and leverage


May provide income through dividends

Don’t provide income through dividends

Voting rights

Shareholders enjoy voting rights on company matters

Don’t typically have voting rights

Holding duration

Held for the long term

Held for short or medium terms

Profit Timing

Profits realized when the asset's price exceeds the strike price.

Profits realized when the asset's price falls below the strike price.

Aspect Equity Derivatives
OwnershipRepresents ownership in a companyDon’t grant ownership rights
PurposeTypically held for the long-termUsed for short-term speculation, hedging or arbitrage
RisksThough subject to market risks, it is comparatively less than derivativesInvolves higher level of risk due to complexity and leverage
IncomeMay provide income through dividendsDon’t provide income through dividends
Voting rightsShareholders enjoy voting rights on company mattersDon’t typically have voting rights
Holding durationHeld for the long termHeld for short or medium terms
Profit TimingProfits realized when the asset's price exceeds the strike price.Profits realized when the asset's price falls below the strike price.

Whether seeking long-term capital appreciation or short-term gains, your goals will influence the choice between equities and derivatives. By considering the following factors, you can make an informed choice between equity and derivatives.

Go for equities if you:

  • Seek long-term ownership and potential dividend income from a company.
  • Are comfortable with market volatility and are willing to hold investments for an extended period.
  • Want voting rights in the company's decision-making processes.
  • Prefer straightforward investment instruments without complex financial contracts.

On the other hand, go for derivatives if you:

  • Are experienced in financial markets and understand the complexities of derivative instruments.
  • Want to speculate on short-term price fluctuation or hedge against specific risks.
  • Are comfortable with leverage and the potential for amplified gains or losses.
  • Have a specific trading strategy that involves options, futures, or other derivative contracts.

Your choice between the two should align with your goals, risk appetite, and understanding of these financial instruments.

Your ownership in shares is commonly referred to as equity securities. Conversely, a derivative represents a contractual agreement entered into by two or more parties to engage in the buying or selling of assets at a future date.

Derivatives are generally considered riskier than stocks due to their leverage, which can amplify gains and losses.

Exercise settlement involves the cash settlement process, carried out by either debiting or crediting the clearing accounts of the pertinent clearing members with the corresponding clearing bank.

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