Volatility Arbitrage

5 mins read
by Angel One
Explore Volatility Arbitrage, an ingenious strategy for navigating market ups and downs for potential gains. Learn about how it works and the associated pros and cons.

In investing, dealing with how prices go up and down is crucial. That’s where Volatility Arbitrage comes in, a smart way to use these market ups and downs for potential gains. In this article, learn about volatility arbitrage, its workings, and the risks involved. 

What Is Arbitrage?

Arbitrage is a term used in trading to describe the simultaneous buy and sell actions of an asset in separate markets. These assets need not necessarily be the same, and one of them could be in the form of a derivative. The difference in pricing for the asset/derivative results in a benefit.

There are different kinds of arbitrage. One such example is statistical arbitrage. This method of arbitrage involves the wide use of data and statistics to tap into the price movement.

What Is Volatility Arbitrage?

Volatility arbitrage is about leveraging the difference between an option’s implied volatility and the actual outcome. But what exactly is implied volatility? It is the forecast of a likely movement in the price of a security. With changing expectations, there are similar changes in the option’s premium. The implied volatility will increase as the demand for an option goes up.

Volatility Arbitrage Strategy, Delta and Options Trading

The pricing of options is impacted by the volatility of the underlying asset. So, if the implied and actual volatilities vary, a gap between the price that is being expected and the actual price in the option’s price in the market ensues. It is this gap that is leveraged by a trader.

A volatility arbitrage strategy can be put to use in the context of a  portfolio that is delta-neutral. Delta is the ratio of change in an underlying asset’s price and change in the option or derivative’s price. When options are used to trade volatility, the delta aspect of the trade needs to be taken into account. You can create a delta neutral position by balancing delta ratios of call and put options.

Delta-neutral trading implies building positions that are not responsive to minor price changes in the underlying stock. This means that whether the stock rises or falls, the position retains value and doesn’t go up or down in price. This kind of trading strategy is usually used by option traders who don’t want any sort of directional bias or risk.

If you are wondering why a trader would wish to have a position that is not responsive to price movements of the underlying asset, here’s the answer: even if the position is not reacting, it still benefits from factors like the decay of time and changes in implied volatility.

Because an option’s delta changes with time, there is a need for regular rebalancing to ensure delta neutrality. The rebalancing of the trades can be done by using the volatility arbitrage strategy.

How Does Volatility Arbitrage Work?

A volatility arbitrage strategy would mean looking at options that have implied volatility much greater or lesser than the actual volatility of the price of assets underlying. 

If the stock option’s volatility is underpriced, you can go long on the call and take the short position for the underlying asset. This way, the delta neutrality is maintained. When the implied volatility goes up and the option increases to the fair value, you benefit. Fair value is the actual true value of an asset that is agreed upon by both buyer and seller.

In another scenario, if the stock option’s price is overvalued because implied volatility has been overestimated, you can go short on the call and buy the underlying asset. If the forecast turns out to be correct and the stock price remains unchanged, the option drops to the fair value, and the trader benefits.

Benefits of Volatility Arbitrage

  • Volatility arbitrage acts as a risk management tool, allowing investors to hedge against uncertainties in the market by profiting from volatility without taking directional bets.
  • The strategy is adaptable to various market conditions, allowing investors to find opportunities for profit regardless of whether the market is trending or consolidating.
  • Unlike directional strategies, Volatility Arbitrage is less dependent on predicting market trends, making it attractive for investors aiming to generate returns in both bullish and bearish scenarios.

Risks Involved in Volatility Arbitrage

However, it helps to remember that there are still risks inherent in volatility arbitrage. The risks are present because a trader must make correct assumptions, and many of them at that. These include the overvaluation or undervaluation of an option, the timing for holding a position, and the change in the price of the underlying asset. Any wrong estimate can lead to erosion of time value. Any trader who takes up this kind of arbitrage as a strategy should always be mindful of the risks.


The answer to what is volatility arbitrage is that it is a kind of statistical arbitrage strategy that tries to gain from the difference between an asset’s actual price volatility and the implied volatility of an option based on the asset. This strategy is usually used in the context of delta neutrality. There are risks inherent in this strategy, and a lot rides on the trader’s correct assumptions. A good understanding of options, volatility and delta will greatly help.


Why is volatility arbitrage important?

Volatility arbitrage is essential for risk management, providing a tool to hedge against market uncertainties. It allows investors to profit from volatility while minimising exposure to directional market movements.

Is volatility arbitrage suitable for all investors?

No, it’s a complex strategy best suited for experienced investors with a solid understanding of options and derivatives markets. Beginner investors may find it challenging due to its complexities.

What are the risks associated with volatility arbitrage?

Risks include incorrect volatility predictions, market illiquidity, and unforeseen events affecting options pricing. It requires careful monitoring and risk management to navigate potential pitfalls.

How is volatility arbitrage different from other trading strategies?

Unlike directional strategies, volatility arbitrage doesn’t rely on predicting market trends. It focuses on profiting from volatility changes, making it a unique approach within trading strategies.