Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Solvency Cone Definition

What Is a Solvency Cone?

The term solvency cone refers to a mathematical model that considers the estimated impact of transaction costs when trading financial assets. Put simply, it takes transaction fees into account when determining the profitability of an investment. As such, it represents a range of possible trades or portfolios that can be made at a specific time frame after taking the bid-ask spread into account.

Key Takeaways

  • A solvency cone is a tool used in financial mathematics.
  • Traders can use the solvency cone to understand the realm of possible trades that could be made given transaction costs in a market.
  • The solvency cone uses the bid-ask spread in addition to direct transaction costs like commissions to narrow the universe of possible investments.
  • Traders who are frequent buyers and sellers must account for both direct and indirect transaction costs as these can reduce profits and may even generate net losses over time.
  • Solvency cones are also used when trying to replicate the holdings and after-cost performance of a professionally-managed portfolio.

How Solvency Cones Work

As noted above, the solvency cone is a tool used in financial mathematics. It can be very useful for traders to use to determine the potential for profit (or loss) on trades based on the associated transaction costs by modeling the financial market.

Financial transaction costs tend to come down over time. Perhaps you’ve noticed that online brokerage accounts tend to out-duel each other on fees every few years. As a result, the less than $10 a trade these brokerages offered more than a decade ago is now typically less than $5 a trade.

These costs must still be taken into consideration, especially in particular aspects of trading. Short-term and high-frequency trading (HFT) strategies that swap positions on an intraday or intraweek basis sometimes incur transaction costs that overwhelm the profit potential. Even longer-term, or so-called position trading strategies incur significant costs that cannot be ignored. The solvency cone helps to estimate these costs.

Remember, the spread between the bid and ask prices essentially measures the difference between the highest price that a buyer will pay for an asset and the lowest price that a seller will accept. This spread represents an important part of overall transaction costs. When spreads are wide, the costs of entering and exiting a trade, or making a round-trip transaction, are higher.

The bid-ask spread tends to be wider during periods of market volatility. Moreover, it tends to widen among assets and asset classes that trade less frequently.

Other Uses for the Solvency Cone

Part of the problem with classic financial models is that many don’t take transaction costs into account. This makes them difficult to replicate in the real world since costs are such a meaningful factor when making trading decisions.

Solvency fixes this problem. For instance:

  • It lets mathematicians apply an estimate of real-world transaction costs when utilizing mathematical and financial theory. That's why the solvency cone has applications in the foreign exchange, currency, and options markets, in addition to just bonds and stocks.
  • It also comes into play with the so-called portfolio replication or trying to match the trading style, or specific market moves, of an expert trader.

It seems worthwhile to try and match what proven experts do in the markets. However, even with perfect information in near-real-time, it’s almost impossible to match their precise performance. The reason is trading costs.

As such, the initial trades put on by the expert likely were made at more favorable bid-ask spreads. So even trading them in near-real-time won’t result in the same performance. The solvency cone helps to make better performance assumptions for these replicated portfolios.

What Is the Purpose of a Solvency Cone?

A solvency cone is a useful financial mathematical tool that allows traders to consider the estimated impact of transaction costs when they make financial trades. It uses the bid-ask spread in addition to explicit transaction costs like commissions to narrow the universe of possible investments. As such, it allows traders to make better performance assumptions about portfolios that they may try to replicate.

How Can Solvency Cones Help Traders?

Trading often comes with explicit and implicit costs. These include trading fees, commissions, taxes, and exchange fees to name a few. When added up, they can eat away at a trader's bottom line and profits. Financial models like the solvency cone can help traders make more well-informed decisions about their investments. Making use of this financial model is useful for many traders, especially those who deal in high-frequency trades and/or those who hold their positions for a short amount of time or for traders who try to replicate portfolios by using the bid-ask spread in addition to certain explicit costs.

What Are the Most Common Transaction Fees in the Trading World?

Some of the most common transaction fess associated with financial trading include transaction fees, contract fees, commissions, redemption fees, service charges, account minimum fees, and advisory fees. Keep in mind that these are the most common costs. As such, this isn't meant to be an exhaustive list of fees.

The Bottom Line

Trading can be very lucrative if you have the right experience, knowledge, and savvy. Still, there are factors that can cut down on your profits—notably transaction costs and other fees like commissions. But there are tools in place that investors to can use to help them cut down on their costs before they actually make any traders. The solvency cone allows traders to take the estimated transaction costs into account before finalizing any trades. This is especially useful for investors who make high-frequency trades or hold their positions for short periods of time.

Investopedia does not provide tax, investment, or financial services and advice. The information is presented without consideration of the investment objectives, risk tolerance, or financial circumstances of any specific investor and might not be suitable for all investors. Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal.

Take the Next Step to Invest
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.