Got Leverage? Portfolio Margin versus Regulation T Margin

How can individuals get risk based margins like market makers and not have to own a seat on the exchange floor? It's with portfolio margin.

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https://tickertapecdn.tdameritrade.com/assets/images/pages/md/A careful balance: How portfolio margin can help qualified traders leverage their assets further than Regulation T margin
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How can an individual trader get risk-based margins like a market maker without owning (or leasing) a seat or trading on the exchange floor? Portfolio margin.

Portfolio margin is a new, risk-based margin available for qualified accounts. Portfolio margin computes real-time margin for stock and option positions based on their risk rather than the fixed percentages and strategy rules associated with Regulation T margin. 

Portfolio margin at TD Ameritrade uses theoretical pricing models to calculate the real-time losses of a position at different price points above and below the current underlying price. The largest theoretical loss identified is the margin required for the position. 

TD Ameritrade uses industry standard option pricing model to calculate, in real time, the theoretical fair value for both put and call options by using inputs of underlying price, strike price, time to expiration, volatility, the risk-free interest rate, and dividend yield (if applicable). 

The result of all this is frequently lower margin requirements and increased leverage when compared to Regulation T margin requirements. Here’s a breakdown of some of the other differences between portfolio margin and Regulation T.


Portfolio MarginRegulation T Margin
Maintenance excess (buying power) = Net liquidation value – margin requirementsMargin equity = Stock + (+/- cash balance)
No difference between initial and maintenance marginsMaintenance margin = 50% initial 
Treatment of volatility is applied to margin requirement25% SRO requirements; long equities = 25% requirement; short equities = 30% requirement. *SRO - Self- Regulatory Organization -all securities and commodity exchanges in the United States
Generally broad-based indices: -12% and 10%; equities: +15% and -15%; allows up to 6.6 to 1 leverageTD Ameritrade uses 30% minimum house maintenance requirement on long and short equities
Allows for correlation and margin offsets between similar investmentsOption requirements computed in real-time using FINRA rules and fixed percentages; please review Margin Handbook for details
Long options are marginable and can be used as collateral for other marginable positionsLong options are not marginable and have 100% requirement

A Brief History of Portfolio Margin

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) developed a risk-based margin model in 1988 for calculating margin requirements for future and options on futures.

On December 12, 2006, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved a rule change to make portfolio margin available to brokerage firms. The Options Clearing Corporation (OCC) provided broker dealers with the only approved model, the Theoretical Intermarket Margining System (TIMS), which is a baseline minimum risk-based model to calculate margin requirements for portfolio margin accounts once a day after the equity market is closed.

History of portfolio margin

FIGURE 1. A BRIEF HISTORY OF PORTFOLIO MARGIN.

Image source: TD Ameritrade

Now that you have an introduction to portfolio margin, and a basic understanding of some of the features and characteristics when compared to Regulation T, you can learn more and find out how to apply by clicking the link below.

In a future article about portfolio margin, I'll provide more details with how it works and what it means for individual traders like you. 

Get More with Portfolio Margin

Consider applying if portfolio margin is right for you. You must meet minimum requirements and have at least $125,000 in total equity.*

Call Us
800-454-9272

*Portfolio margining involves a great deal more risk than cash accounts and is not suitable for all investors. Minimum qualification requirements apply. Portfolio margining is not available in all account types.

Portfolio margining privileges subject to TD Ameritrade review and approval. Not all clients will qualify. Please consider your financial resources, investment objectives, and tolerance for risk to determine if it makes sense for your individual circumstances. Carefully read the Portfolio Margin Risk Disclosure Statement, Margin Handbook, and Margin Disclosure Document for specific disclosures and more details. You may also contact TD Ameritrade at 800-669-3900 for copies.

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Market volatility, volume, and system availability may delay account access and trade executions.

Past performance of a security or strategy does not guarantee future results or success.

Options are not suitable for all investors as the special risks inherent to options trading may expose investors to potentially rapid and substantial losses. Options trading subject to TD Ameritrade review and approval. Please read Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options before investing in options.

Supporting documentation for any claims, comparisons, statistics, or other technical data will be supplied upon request.

The information is not intended to be investment advice or construed as a recommendation or endorsement of any particular investment or investment strategy, and is for illustrative purposes only. Be sure to understand all risks involved with each strategy, including commission costs, before attempting to place any trade. Clients must consider all relevant risk factors, including their own personal financial situations, before trading.

This is not an offer or solicitation in any jurisdiction where we are not authorized to do business or where such offer or solicitation would be contrary to the local laws and regulations of that jurisdiction, including, but not limited to persons residing in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, UK, and the countries of the European Union.

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