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Ventura Wealth Clients
4 min Read

For aspiring and experienced traders alike, navigating the world of margin trading requires a keen understanding of risk and responsibility. While margin allows you to leverage your capital and potentially amplify profits, it also exposes you to the risk of margin shortfalls. These shortfalls occur when the value of your marginable positions falls below the minimum equity requirement set by your broker.

This blog delves deep into the causes of margin shortfalls, equipping you with the knowledge to identify potential risks and protect your hard-earned capital. We'll explore various factors, strategies, and best practices to help you navigate margin trading with greater confidence.

What is margin in trading?

Margin trading allows you to control a larger position size than your available cash balance by borrowing funds from your broker. This leverage can be a powerful tool, but it comes with a significant caveat: increased risk of losses.

Here's how margin works

  • Initial Margin: This is the minimum percentage of the total position value you need to have in your account using your own funds. For example, if the initial margin requirement is 50%, you need to deposit 50% of the position value using your own cash, and you can borrow the remaining 50% from your broker.
  • Maintenance Margin: This is the minimum equity level your account needs to maintain to avoid a margin call. It's typically lower than the initial margin requirement (around 25-30%).

What causes a margin shortfall?

Several factors can lead to a margin shortfall, jeopardising your trading position and potentially leading to forced liquidation by your broker. Here are some key causes:

  • Market Price Movements: The most common cause is a decline in the value of your holdings. If the market price falls below a certain level, the equity in your account (your initial investment minus any losses) might fall below the maintenance margin requirement.
  • High Leverage: While leverage can magnify profits, it also amplifies losses. Using excessive leverage increases the risk of a margin shortfall even with minor price fluctuations.
  • Failing to Maintain Minimum Balance: Not maintaining the minimum required balance in your account, excluding the value of your positions, can also trigger a margin shortfall. This is because the available cash is considered part of your equity.
  • Unexpected Expenses: Unexpected debits to your trading account, like account fees or inactivity charges, can reduce your available equity and potentially lead to a shortfall.
  • Not Considering Dividends: If you hold stocks that pay dividends, the dividend amount might be deducted from your account balance before the ex-dividend date, potentially triggering a shortfall if not factored in.

What happens if you have a margin shortfall?

A margin shortfall can have severe consequences for your trading activity:

  • Margin Call: Your broker will issue a margin call, demanding you to deposit additional funds or close out some positions to bring your account equity back above the maintenance margin requirement.
  • Forced Liquidation: If you fail to meet the margin call within a specified timeframe, your broker might resort to forced liquidation of your positions to recover their loaned funds. This can lead to selling your assets at potentially unfavourable prices, further amplifying your losses.
  • Negative Account Balance: In extreme cases, if the forced liquidation doesn't cover the borrowed amount, you might end up with a negative account balance, owing money to your broker.

How to avoid a margin shortfall while trading?

To navigate margin trading responsibly and avoid shortfalls, consider these strategies:

  • Understand Your Risk Tolerance: Before using margin, assess your risk tolerance and only leverage a portion of your capital that you're comfortable potentially losing.
  • Start Small: Begin with a small margin position to gain experience and understand the risks involved before scaling up your leverage.
  • Set Stop-Loss Orders: Utilise stop-loss orders to automatically exit positions when they reach a predefined price point, limiting potential losses and protecting your account equity.
  • Monitor Account Activity Regularly: Keep a close eye on your account balance, margin requirements, and market movements to identify any potential shortfalls early on.
  • Maintain a Diversified Portfolio: Don't concentrate your entire portfolio on margin positions. Diversification across asset classes can help mitigate risk.
  • Manage Unexpected Events: Maintain a buffer of cash in your trading account to cover unexpected debits or potential margin shortfalls arising from unforeseen circumstances.
  • Consider Alternative Strategies: Explore alternative strategies like options trading that might offer similar profit potential with potentially lower margin requirements.

Beyond the basics

For the ones who are experienced in options trading, consider these advanced techniques to optimise your margin usage:

  • Calculated Leverage: Dynamically adjust your leverage ratio based on market volatility and position size. Use lower leverage in volatile markets and higher leverage for less volatile assets.

  • Hedging Strategies: Implement hedging strategies using options contracts or other instruments to protect your positions from adverse market movements and reduce margin requirements.
  • Backtesting and Scenario Planning: Backtest your trading strategies with historical data and utilise scenario planning to understand how your positions would react under different market conditions, including potential margin shortfalls.
  • Discipline and Risk Management: Develop a strong sense of discipline and adhere to strict risk management principles. Don't chase losses or deviate from your trading plan in the face of potential shortfalls.

How the right broker may help you

When using margin trading, choosing a reliable broker is crucial:

  • Clear Margin Policy: Ensure your broker has a transparent and clearly defined margin policy that outlines initial margin requirements, maintenance margin levels, and margin call procedures.
  • Margin Monitoring Tools: Utilise brokers that offer margin monitoring tools that provide real-time updates on your account equity and potential margin shortfalls.
  • Educational Resources: Choose a broker that offers educational resources on margin trading, helping you understand the risks and best practices involved.

Ventura’s Margin Trade Funding is an easy-to-use feature that allows you to leverage your holdings and trade. Moreover, if you sign up to be one of our early customers, you get an exclusive brokerage plan of INR 9 per trade. 


Margin trading can be a powerful tool for experienced investors, but it requires a deep understanding of risks and a commitment to responsible trading practices. By familiarising yourself with the causes of margin shortfalls, implementing effective risk management strategies, and choosing a reliable broker, you can navigate the world of margin trading with greater confidence and potentially unlock new avenues for profit in the financial markets.

Remember: Margin trading is not for everyone. It's crucial to carefully assess your risk tolerance, financial situation, and investment goals before embarking on this path. Always prioritise responsible financial management and prioritise protecting your capital. By approaching margin trading with knowledge, discipline, and a well-defined strategy, you can potentially leverage its benefits while mitigating the risks of a margin shortfall.