Stochastic Modelling in Investments

Last Updated July 19th 2021
6 Min Read

Forecasting a scenario in any business can be a challenge. But when the sector is investments, it can be all the more difficult to predict what is going to happen in the future. There may not be a crystal ball to look into but there is a tool that can, if used well, help in the estimation of what to expect. 

That is what stochastic modelling is capable of and using a range of outcomes from a variety of settings and using multiple variables, businesses can have the kind of intelligence needed to take prudent decisions. In investing, this model can help in identifying the risks and opportunities that need to be navigated to minimise losses and maximise gains. 

What is Stochastic Modelling?

It is a type of financial modelling that is a tried and tested approach to provide for uncertainties while estimating potential outcomes in an unknown future. This is the preferred option among models to predict possible results while using inputs that have an element of randomness. In fact, it is the random variable present in an uncertain situation that is the ideal condition to estimate probability in multiple outcomes.  

Using data, stochastic modelling is used to forecast and predict scenarios and outcomes to help businesses make more informed and well-researched decisions. Any organisation that seeks to improve its functioning and stay profitable can benefit from this tool.

Companies in the financial sector use this form of modelling while trying to estimate scenarios where there is an element of uncertainty. Typical examples of such uncertainty can be changing rates of returns, shifting rates of inflation, market volatility, to name a few. 

Stochastic modelling uses mathematical functions to throw up various outcomes using the concept of probability distribution. These are done with inputs that are likely to vary randomly over a period. The end result, typically, is multiple outcomes with different results each time. 

The Role of Stochastic Modelling in Investing

The world of investments is riddled with the challenges of What-If scenarios. Taking a decision on buying a stock or predicting how a portfolio will turn out in the future is laden with uncertainty and risk. What is needed here is a tool that can cover all possible scenarios and provide a good enough estimation to secure a portfolio.

In investing, stochastic modelling helps scope scenarios and estimate probable outcomes with the assumption that the future will be uncertain. Using the randomness quotient in the inputs entered into the model, it becomes easier and sharper to predict possible outcomes. 

This is one tool that is preferred by portfolio managers and analysts to manage their assets and make them profitable despite the uncertainties and volatilities inherent in the investment world. 

Pros and Cons of Stochastic Modelling

Just as every concept or strategy or tool has strengths and drawbacks, stochastic modelling also has its fair share of pros and cons. There is no one solution that fits all or works in all situations. Stochastic modelling is widely accepted as a fine tool and is practised by businesses worldwide. But, like everything, it is also not perfect and may not suit all requirements. 

Pros of stochastic modelling

 Stochastic modelling has the ability to simulate different scenarios that actually occur. These can be used to derive possible outcomes in a business environment that could have consequences as faced in the real world. This can facilitate a company anticipating potential customer impact and, thereby, preparing and planning for worst-case scenarios. 

Besides the power of simulating multiple scenarios, stochastic modelling also excels in its ability to do innumerable calculations within each. Such an expansive coverage of diverse economic conditions help generate a wide array of results that can facilitate predicting various outcomes. 

Unlike deterministic modelling that tends to be inaccurate in complex scenarios, stochastic has lesser room for errors or surprises. 

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Cons of stochastic modelling

For investments, stochastic modelling can come up short though not due to the tool’s shortcoming, really. But it can present some challenges. Investments that carry a fixed rate of returns can, to that extent, pose a difficulty handling volatility and inflexibility in the future. Estimating scenarios on the basis of this is possible but corrective measures will not be quite possible. 

Also, even with stochastic modelling, its efficacy can increase or decrease depending on the mix of a portfolio. It cannot be uniformly effective in all cases and there will always be changes in risk and estimation of outcomes that may vary even within a portfolio. 

Difference between Stochastic Modelling and Deterministic Modelling

A good starting point to understand stochastic modelling is to also look at deterministic modelling, another form that is different in its approach. 

We saw how stochastic modelling is a useful way to forecast a scenario with variables thrown in. But what if a business prefers to understand a future setting without any variables? What if the inputs that are added to the model do not have any randomness in them and have specific values only? 

In simple words, this is what deterministic modelling is all about. The uncertain factors are stripped off here and only the known ones get inserted into the mix. Therefore, the results that are derived here also are, usually, unsurprising and predictable. 

But stochastic modelling goes over and beyond the known and the static factors and thrives on playing with uncertainty. It is the random nature of the variables that is used here to create estimations and simulate outcomes. When these are adapted to varying scenarios, the user gets to see their effects clearly. 

So, the primary difference between the two models is, in the end, the result each produces. Whereas stochastic modelling gives changeable results, deterministic modelling manages with only constant ones.

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Industries and Sectors that Employ Stochastic Modelling

With its proven effectiveness in using random variables to derive multiple outcomes under different conditions, stochastic modelling is a popular business tool used across sectors. But the industries that it most benefits and finds favour in include the financial and economic world and, specifically, verticals like stock investing and insurance. Of course, the world of science, ranging from quantum physics to biology uses it too. It even comes in handy in areas as diverse as linguistics and statistics. 

Stochastic modelling in the financial sector

The role of stochastic modelling has been particularly important and widespread in the financial sector. After all, when it comes to investments, there are many aspects to consider. The time horizon, the capital, the rate of returns, the risks involved and similar considerations are all fraught with uncertainties. 

Without a proper model that factors in all the variables involved can be the equivalent of walking in blind without knowing what to expect. When it is a matter of hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars, no investor wants to do that. The need of the hour is to draw up a watertight plan that envisages all possible scenarios with all probable variables that can result in multiple outcomes. 

Businesses, especially, in the financial world do this diligently all the time and this is where stochastic modelling becomes a go-to tool for them. Typically, models need to be built and rebuilt as variables surface continuously. The more frequently the models are updated, the better the results and easier it becomes to make decisions with lesser risks and more returns. 

In the investment world, stochastic modelling has great relevance given the presence of variables like prices and returns of various asset classes. Models can be built for single or multiple asset groups. One of the popular models is the Monte Carlo simulation that focuses on the performance of a portfolio in respect to the probability distributions in the case of the returns of individual stocks

Some of the end uses for this tool include asset allocation, optimising ALM or asset-liability management helps in portfolio planning and selection. It is used extensively in the insurance and actuarial sectors as well.

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