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What Is FX Exposure? 5 Steps to Manage It in 2024

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FX exposure, or foreign exchange exposure, is the risk you face when dealing with different currencies. 

Imagine that your company buys supplies using euros but sells products using dollars. If the euro gets stronger, your supplies become more expensive, but if the dollar weakens, you earn less on your sales. This is an example of FX exposure risks - the unpredictable changes in currency exchange rates that can hurt your finances.

Are you leaving money on the table due to unpredictable currency swings? Many businesses are, simply because they don't understand how exchange rates impact their profits. This is known as foreign exchange (FX) exposure, and understanding it is the first step to protecting your hard-earned money.

This guide will explain everything you need to know about FX exposure, from what it is to how to evaluate it. We will also break down various hedging tools and strategies to mitigate currency risk and optimize your profits.

What Is Foreign Exchange Exposure?

Foreign exchange (FX) exposure, also known as currency risk, refers to the potential for financial loss due to exchange rate fluctuations between currencies.

When your business engages in international payments, holds assets or liabilities denominated in a foreign currency, or competes with businesses in other countries, you are exposed to foreign exchange risk.

For instance, importers face higher costs if the foreign currency they use for payment appreciates, while exporters receive lower revenue if the currency they receive depreciates.

Even businesses without direct cross-border transactions can be affected if their competitors gain a price advantage due to weaker currencies in their home countries.


Helpful Resource: Read our article to learn more about the different types of foreign exchange exposure.

Debunking Forex Myths

Before we dive into strategies, let’s clear up misconceptions that might hold you back.

Myth 1: Forex Is Only for Multinational Corporations.

While large enterprises with multiple subsidiaries often have dedicated forex teams, that doesn't mean SMEs can't benefit, either. In fact, with the rise of online platforms and specialized services, accessing the forex market has never been easier for businesses of all sizes.

Myth 2: Forex Isn't a Priority for My Small Business.

While focusing on day-to-day operations like cash flow management is essential, neglecting currency risk can be costly. Even small currency movements can add up over time, especially if you have regular international transactions. Ignoring foreign exchange risk can erode your profit margins and affect your competitiveness.


Myth 3: Small Businesses Have No Control Over Currency Fluctuations.

While you can't control the market, you absolutely can control your response. With the right strategies and hedging tools, you can minimize the impact of exchange rate volatility on your businesses and even turn it into an advantage.

Myth 4: Hedging Is Too Complicated.

Hedging is simply a way to protect yourself from financial losses, like buying insurance. While some hedging strategies can be complex, there are also simple options, such as forward contracts, that are easy to understand and implement.

Myth 5: My Bank Offers the Best Exchange Rates.

While your bank might be convenient, it often doesn’t offer the best deals on currency exchange. Specialized forex providers or fintechs can often provide better rates and lower fees, saving your business money in the long run.


Tip: Shop around and compare exchange rates from different providers. Use the interbank rate – the rate banks use when trading with each other – as a benchmark to find the best deal.

5 Steps to Mitigate FX Exposure

Managing currency risk doesn't have to be overwhelming. Follow these steps to protect your business from currency volatility.


Assess Your FX Exposure

Identify Exposed Currencies

The first step is to identify all the currencies your business interacts with. This includes:

  • Transaction Exposure: Currencies involved in buying or selling goods and services across borders.
  • Translation Exposure: Currencies used by foreign subsidiaries for financial reporting.
  • Economic Exposure (or Operating Exposure): Currencies that indirectly affect your business, such as those used by competitors or in markets where you operate.

Let's say you're a US-based retailer who sources materials from China (CNY) and sells to customers in Europe (EUR). You're exposed to the CNY/EUR exchange rate directly, as it affects your costs (in CNY) and revenue (in EUR). But you're also indirectly exposed to CNY/USD and EUR/USD rates, as these influence the value of your payments and receipts when converted back to US dollars. These conversions can significantly impact your bottom line, so it’s important to estimate the portion of your revenue and expenses denominated in foreign currencies. 

Prioritize the currencies with the highest potential impact on your finances to focus your risk management efforts.

Analyze Historical Data

Gather historical exchange rate data for each identified currency. Look at how these rates have fluctuated over time to gauge their volatility. You can use online resources, financial news platforms, or specialized software to access this information. Understanding the trends can help you anticipate potential future movements.

Forecast Future Exposures

Examine your upcoming contracts, projected sales, and potential market changes to estimate your future foreign currency needs. Factor in economic forecasts, geopolitical events, and industry trends that could impact exchange rates.

Quantify Potential Impact

Finally, estimate how much your business could gain or lose under different exchange rate scenarios. There are several ways to approach this:

  • Simple Calculations: If your exposure is relatively straightforward, you can use basic calculations to estimate the impact of percentage changes in exchange rates on your revenues or costs.
  • Sensitivity Analysis: This method involves testing different exchange rate scenarios to see how they would affect your bottom line. This can be done manually in a spreadsheet or using specialized software.
  • Value at Risk (VaR): This statistical tool estimates the maximum potential loss on a portfolio of assets (or liabilities) over a specific time period with a certain degree of confidence (e.g., 95%). VaR is typically used by larger companies with complex currency exposures.

The level of detail and sophistication you need in your analysis will depend on the size and complexity of your business and your risk tolerance. Smaller businesses with simpler exposures might be able to get by with basic calculations, while larger companies might need more advanced modeling techniques.


Did you know? Interest rate fluctuations in different countries can also impact your business's finances. So, don't forget to account for interest rate risk when developing your risk management strategy.


Identify Your Risk Tolerance

Every business has a different tolerance for risk. Some are comfortable with a bit of uncertainty in exchange for potential gains, while others prioritize stability and predictability. 

Ask yourself:

  • How much fluctuation in foreign exchange rates can I handle without significantly impacting my profits?
  • Am I willing to take on some risk for the chance of higher returns, or do I prefer a more conservative approach?


Choose Your Hedging Tool

These are financial contracts that allow you to directly manage currency risk through financial markets.

Forward Contracts

Forward contracts are agreements between you and a financial institution (e.g., a bank) to exchange a specific amount of currency at a predetermined exchange rate on a future date. This "locked-in" rate provides certainty, regardless of how the market fluctuates between now and the settlement date.

Best for businesses with predictable future cash flows in different currencies, such as import or export businesses that have regular payments or receipts in a foreign currency.

Pros of Forward Contracts

  • Eliminates exchange rate risk
  • Allows for accurate budgeting and forecasting, and protects against adverse market movements.

Cons of Forward Contracts

  • No upside potential if the exchange rate moves favorably
  • Requires a firm commitment.

Tip: Consider combining forward contracts with letters of credit (LCs) to further enhance the security of your international payments.

Future Contracts

Similar to forward contracts, futures are standardized and traded on exchanges. They offer high liquidity and are available in a wide range of currencies. However, they are less customizable than forwards and require active management due to margin calls.

Best for businesses comfortable with active trading and managing standardized contracts.

Pros of Future Contracts

  • Easily bought and sold on the market.
  • Traded on regulated exchanges, offering transparency and reduced counterparty risk.

Cons of Future Contracts

  • Terms are fixed and may not fit your exact needs.
  • Require ongoing monitoring and may lead to margin calls if the market moves against you.

Currency Options

Currency options give you the right but not the obligation to buy or sell a currency at a specific price by a certain date. You pay a premium for the option, but if the market moves against you, you can exercise the option to protect yourself. If the market moves in your favor, you can let the option expire and take advantage of the better rate.

Best for businesses seeking flexibility and willing to pay a premium for potential upside while limiting downside risk.

Pros of Currency Options

  • Allows you to choose whether to exercise the option or not, based on the market conditions.
  • Benefit from favorable market movements while having protection against adverse changes.

Cons of Currency Options

  • An upfront fee (premium) is required to purchase the option.

Currency Swaps

This involves exchanging principal and interest payments on a loan in one currency for principal and interest payments on an equal loan in another currency. Swaps can be used to manage both currency and interest rate risk.

Best for larger companies with substantial exposure to multiple currencies and interest rate risk.

Pros of Currency Swaps

  • Effectively manages long-term currency and interest rate risk.
  • Can be customized to match your company's financial exposure.

Cons of Currency Swaps

  • Requires specialized knowledge and understanding of financial markets.
  • Typically limited to larger firms with substantial liquidity and expertise in financial markets.


Consider Operational Hedging

Operational hedging is the practice of adjusting daily business activities to naturally reduce forex exposure. This approach helps businesses mitigate risk without relying solely on complex financial instruments. Here are some effective operational hedging strategies to consider.

Transact in Your Home Currency

Whenever possible, invoice your customers and pay your suppliers in your domestic currency. This transfers the FX risk to the other party, as they bear the burden of converting currencies. This strategy is simpler but might not be feasible for all businesses, as it could make you less competitive in some markets or alienate customers and suppliers who prefer to transact in their local currency.

Build Protection into Your Contracts

Incorporate specific clauses in your commercial contracts to address potential currency fluctuations. Common clauses include:

  • Price adjustment clauses: Allow for price adjustments based on changes in exchange rates exceeding a certain threshold.
  • Currency choice clauses: Specify the currency in which payments will be made.
  • Exchange rate pass-through clauses: Allow you to pass on the cost of currency fluctuations to the buyer.

This strategy offers some protection against large currency swings, but it can be complex to negotiate and might strain relationships with counterparties. It's particularly suitable for businesses with long-term contracts involving significant foreign currency exposure, such as those in infrastructure projects or international trade.

Natural Hedging

Strategically align your business operations to match revenues and expenses in the same foreign currency. 

For example, source raw materials or components from the same country where you sell your finished products, locate production facilities in the same region as your target market or invest in assets denominated in the same currency as your sales revenue. 

This can be an effective way to naturally reduce FX risk without incurring additional costs, but it requires careful coordination and may not be feasible for all businesses.

Opening Multi-Currency Accounts

Open bank accounts that can hold and transact in multiple currencies. This allows you to receive and make payments in foreign currencies without having to convert them immediately, reducing transaction fees and offering more flexibility to take advantage of favorable exchange rates.

However, depending on the provider, be aware of potential account maintenance fees and limited currency options.


Did you know? With the rise of fintechs, even small businesses can now leverage multi-currency accounts to streamline international transactions and expand their global reach.


Monitor and Adapt

Currency markets are constantly changing. To ensure your FX risk management strategy remains effective, it's crucial to continuously monitor and adapt your approach.

Regularly Review Your Exposure

Set a schedule to reassess your business's FX exposure. This may involve revisiting your cash flows, identifying any new currencies involved in transactions, and re-evaluating the proportion of your revenue and expenses affected by foreign currencies.

Track Exchange Rate Movements

Stay updated on the latest exchange rate movements for the currencies that impact your business. Use financial news, online tools, or specialized software to track trends and identify potential risks or opportunities.

Assess Hedging Effectiveness

Evaluate the performance of your current hedging strategies. Are they effectively mitigating your risk? Are there any adjustments needed based on market changes or your evolving business goals?

Consider External Factors

Monitor economic indicators, geopolitical events, and central bank policies that could influence exchange rates. These factors can provide valuable insights into potential future currency movements.

Final Note

Don't leave your profits to chance. By taking a proactive approach to managing your currency risk, you can protect your business from the unpredictable nature of currency exchange rates. 

If you're still feeling overwhelmed, don't hesitate to seek help from the FX specialist. They can assess your risk profiles, transaction patterns, and financial goals to help you develop a customized risk management plan that works best for you.

A dropdown of some supported currencies by the Statrys business account.


Why should small businesses care about FX risk?

Currency fluctuations can directly impact your profits if you deal with clients or suppliers in different countries. Say you’re an exporter, a stronger home currency makes your products more expensive for foreign buyers, potentially decreasing sales. The opposite effect applies to depreciation.

How can I measure my company’s currency risk?


What is the easiest way for a small business to start managing forex exposure?


Do I have to choose just one tool to manage my foreign exchange risk?


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