What Is Currency Overlay: Step by Step Guide

by FX EA Review
What Is Currency Overlay: Step by Step Guide

How to deal with fluctuations that can result in a significant increase in conversion losses? Currency overlay is one of the most effective tools known for its ability to mitigate against coinage threats.

Currency overlay is a strategy carried out by some firms or money managers to manage cash exposures of large clients. The strategies are mostly geared towards pension funds, endowments, and corporates with exposure to various fiats in the trillion-dollar forex market.

The mitigation strategy entails limiting the perils from adverse variation in the exchange proportion in what is commonly referred to as hedging. Additionally, a firm may try to profit from tactical foreign conversion changes while shielding against the threat at hand.

The strategy is tailored to reduce the specific coinage hazards of investing in international equities and currencies. Whenever hedging is done, it is thought to be draped on top of portfolios created by money managers.

Passive vs. active

A passive overlay works by locking in an interchange rate for a specific period. The interchange ratio locking allows corporations and investors to protect their assets against extreme cash value changes. The financial instrument is often referred to as a forward contract as it locks in an interchange level at present for delivery at a predetermined period in the future.

For instance, a US company looking to buy items in Europe must first convert dollar holdings into euros to finance the purchases. While exchanging the dollars to euros, the company can also opt to lock the prevailing rate. The locked ratio will then be used to transfigure any remaining euros back to dollars once the purchases are completed.

An active overlay differs from a passive one in the fact that it limits the downside of a conversion rate fluctuation while also increasing the prospects of profiting when the interchange ratio changes in favor.

To achieve this, a portion of an investment portfolio is normally left unhedged. The money manager will, in return, use the remaining amount to generate profit based on fluctuating rates.

Exchange risk

Currency overlays play an important role in ensuring exchange risks are low whenever conversions take place. Foreign investments often involve the interchange of one fiat to another. In most cases, a coinage is converted from the home legal tender to another where an investment is being made. The interchange must take place in the prevailing exchange amount.

Exchange risk

Whenever funds are being brought back home, conversion must also take place from the foreign to home legal tender. When the second change takes place, it could take in a completely new exchange level from the previous.

The difference between the two interchange ratios can result in a net gain or net loss. Additionally, the conversion can result in an increase or decrease of the investment portfolio value.


Consider a US Company planning to invest $100,000 in Germany. At the start, the company converts its dollar holdings into euros at a proportion of $1.10, ending up with 110,000 euros. If the investment goes on to generate a return of 5%, the company will end up with 115,500 euros.

Consider when the company is repatriating the euros to the US, and the interchange rate has dropped to $1.05, a 4.76% drop. In this case, most of the company’s gains in Germany would be wiped out by the significant interchange level reduction.

Therefore, a significant reduction in the exchange amount would end up wiping out all the returns that the company generated in the country when repatriated to the US.

Event risk

Currency value changes can result in the value of an investment portfolio increasing or decreasing. For starters, economic conditions tend to affect the value of a given legal tender, consequently affecting its interchange proportion against others. Whenever the economy is growing, money value tends to appreciate and depreciate whenever the economy is contracting.

Consequently, money managers pay close watch to economic releases such as consumer spending data, unemployment levels, and gross domestic product to formulate an overlay strategy to counter legal tender change on portfolios.

In addition to economic data, political developments and natural disasters can also influence an exchange metric, resulting in net gain or loss on an investment basket when it comes to money conversions.

Central banks

Currency overlay managers also pay close watch to central banks as their monetary policies influence conversion tariffs a great deal. Central banks set monetary policies by increasing and lowering interest benchmarks that go a long way in influencing legal tender’ strength and value against others.

interest rates

The cutting and raising of interest tariffs tend to influence exchange tariffs, resulting in coinage perils to multinationals. Consequently, money managers rely on overlay hedges to mitigate against rate fluctuations that might come about due to monetary policy changes by the central banks.

Bottom line

Global investors or firms with operations spanning multiple countries must hedge their investments to shield against the downside perils posed by conversion. While hedging is a popular measure of protection against money perils, it can be time-consuming. Overlays offered by money managers go a long way in shielding portfolios against money risks

Currency overlay is an important money management play against risks that come about as a result of interchange proportion fluctuations. It is especially useful when dealing with assets denominated in foreign legal tenders.

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