Understand your Risk Appetite

6 mins read
by Angel One

As an investor, you have access to quite a large selection of investment options to choose from. However, not all of them are equal or similar in all aspects, since they come with different risk and return profiles. And so, before you choose to invest your money in an investment option, it is necessary to first analyze and understand your risk appetite. This way, you would be in a better position to pick the right investment option that suits your needs and requirements. If you’re wondering about the risk appetite’s meaning and how you can understand your threshold for risk tolerance, continue reading to find out.

Understanding risk appetite 

Technically, the term ‘risk appetite’ refers to the maximum amount of risk that you, as an investor, are ready to take for the furtherance of your objectives before the risk outweighs the benefits. Let’s take up a couple of risk appetite examples to better understand this unique concept.

Assume that there’s an investment option that offers you the ability to enjoy returns at 20% per annum. But, the chances of you losing a major part of your investment capital in the process of trying to earn 20% return per annum are high, at say 40%. Despite the fact that the investment option carries a capital risk of 40%, if you still choose to invest in it, then your risk appetite is said to be high. An investor with a high risk appetite usually prefers to chase high returns and doesn’t mind the high level of capital risk involved with the option.

Here’s another example. Assume that there’s an investment option that offers you the ability to enjoy a modest return of just 8% per annum. The chances of you losing your investment capital in the process of trying to earn that 8% return per annum is very low, at say 10%. Under such circumstances, if you choose to invest in this option, then your risk appetite is said to be low. An investor with a low risk appetite usually prefers capital preservation and doesn’t chase high returns due to the higher amount of capital risk involved.

Classification of investors based on their risk appetite

Now that you’ve seen risk appetite’s meaning and a couple of risk appetite examples, let’s take a look at how investors are classified based on their risk appetite.

Conservative investor

A conservative investor is a person who is averse to risk and usually takes an over-cautious approach when it comes to their investments. Since their risk appetite is very low, they tend to focus on investing in stable and low-risk investment options such as government-funded schemes, bank deposits, and gold. For a conservative investor, capital protection and preservation are the highest priority.

Moderate investor

A moderate investor is a person who is generally neutral when it comes to investment risk. Such an investor generally takes on a little bit of a calculated risk in search of moderate to high returns. Their risk appetite is quite moderate and they adopt a more balanced approach towards investing, which entails equal amounts of investment in low-risk and high-risk instruments. A moderate investor has two priorities – capital preservation and moderate to high returns.

Aggressive investor

An aggressive investor is a person who loves to take risks and adopts an over-optimistic approach towards investments. Such investors thrive under risk and are usually not afraid to put their investment capital on the line to earn high returns. Their risk appetite is very large and they tend to focus on volatile and high-risk investment options such as equity mutual funds, direct equity markets, and even derivatives. For an aggressive investor, the main priority is to earn high returns, even if it means that capital preservation has to take a back seat.

How to assess your risk appetite?

Let’s now take a look at how you, as an investor, can determine your risk appetite and work out the category that you fall under. Here are some pointers that you should consider when assessing your risk appetite.

The financial goals and objectives: Your financial goals and objectives can help you accurately assess your risk appetite. For instance, if your ultimate objective is something that’s extremely important to you or your family, then your risk appetite would need to be low.

The tenure of your investment: If you’re planning to go the long-term route, then your risk appetite would need to be moderate. Since you would be staying invested for quite a bit of time, you can afford to take a little bit of calculated risk.

Reaction to market movements: Another great way to assess your risk appetite would be to monitor your reaction to market movements. If you can handle the high volatility of the equity market and the various market sell-offs and crashes, then your risk appetite is most likely high.

Risk Appetite Vs Risk Tolerance

Often the terms risk appetite and tolerance are used interchangeably, but there is a slight difference in how they are used in understanding an individual’s outlook towards risk.  

Risk appetite reflects a proactive stance towards risk-taking. It refers to the amount of risk an individual or organisation is willing to take for an activity that it deems to have value. In simpler terms, it reflects the maximum amount of residual risk after all risk control and mitigation measures are implemented. 

Conversely, risk tolerance measures the deviation from the level of risk appetite that individuals or organisations can accept to achieve their objectives. It refers to the amount of variation in the outcome that is acceptable compared to the performance measure linked to the objective that the individual or organisation seeks to achieve. 

Understanding risk appetite vs risk tolerance is critical for decision-making and formulating effective risk management strategies. 

Factors That Influence Risk Appetite

Risk appetite refers to the degree of risk an individual or organisation is willing to take to achieve its objective. The risk appetite of an individual or organisation is influenced by several factors, such as industry, company culture, risk tolerance, financial stability, competition, the nature of the objective pursued, and the vision of the action. 

  1. Industry and market conditions: The company’s risk appetite is directly related to the sector it belongs to. For instance, sectors like technology and finance are naturally high risk due to high levels of volatility and rapid changes.
  2. Market trends: Factors like economic trends, overall market conditions, and emerging technologies can all affect the company’s risk profile and change its risk appetite. 
  3. Regulatory requirements: Regulatory frameworks and compliance obligations can be restrictive and influence the acceptable risk level of the organisation.
  4. Organisational objective: The company’s overall objective and mission are responsible factors for shaping its risk appetite. New-age organisations driven by innovation may have a higher risk appetite than traditional companies.

Risk appetite and risk tolerance are both concepts related to the management and evaluation of risks within an organisation or individual. While they are closely related, there are distinct differences between the two:

Aspect Risk Appetite Risk Tolerance
Definition It determines an organisation’s or individual’s willingness to take a risk for an activity they deem to have value It defines a specific level of risk that is acceptable
Focus Risk appetite is derived from the organisation’s strategic goals, mission, and values Risk tolerance defines the quantifiable level of risk
Nature It is a qualitative and high-level statement Quantitative and measurable
Purpose Guides decision-making Determines risk thresholds
Measurement Broad and subjective Specific and objective
Expression Expressed in broader terms Expressed in numerical values
Risk Culture Establishes risk-taking boundaries Shapes risk-management strategies

Risk appetite and risk tolerance are interrelated and work together to inform risk management decisions within an organisation or individual’s context.


Always ensure that you invest only after you’ve assessed and analyzed your risk appetite. Your investment options should always match your current risk tolerance levels. This way, you can not only ensure that your investments perform according to your expectations, but you will also be equipped to plan for any contingent or adverse events that might happen down the line.


What is the risk appetite?

Risk appetite denotes the level of risk that an organisation or individual is willing to take to achieve its objective before any risk control measure is determined to reduce the risk amount.

What is the difference between risk appetite and risk tolerance?

Risk appetite means the risk that an individual or organisation will accept to undertake a purpose it expects to have value.

Risk tolerance signifies the acceptable deviation in the organisation’s risk appetite.

Can risk appetite change over time?

Yes, risk appetite can change with economic conditions, market dynamics, changes in regulations and compliance, organisational goals, etc.

What are the factors considered to measure risk tolerance?

When determining risk tolerance, factors like market conditions, regulatory changes, organisational goals, or shifts in management are considered.

How are risk appetite and risk tolerance effectively measured?

Measuring risk appetite and risk tolerance requires a comprehensive risk management framework involving risk monitoring, clear communication, and an understanding of risk appetite across the organisation.