Execution Risks in Trading

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Written By
Contributor Image
Written By
Dan Buckley
Dan Buckley is an US-based trader, consultant, and part-time writer with a background in macroeconomics and mathematical finance. He trades and writes about a variety of asset classes, including equities, fixed income, commodities, currencies, and interest rates. As a writer, his goal is to explain trading and finance concepts in levels of detail that could appeal to a range of audiences, from novice traders to those with more experienced backgrounds.

Execution risks in trading are a critical concern for both individual traders and institutional investors.

These risks can significantly affect the profitability and efficiency of trades, and are one of the least talked about factors in trading.

Here we’ll discuss key aspects of execution risks, including:

  • Best Execution
  • Implementation Shortfall (Slippage)
  • Trading Curb
  • Market Impact
  • Market Depth, and
  • Transaction Costs


Key Takeaways – Execution Risks in Trading

  • Best Execution – The obligation to execute orders on behalf of clients at the most favorable terms possible.
    • Considers price, speed, and likelihood of execution.
  • Implementation Shortfall (Slippage) – The difference between the decision price at the time a trade is ordered and the final execution price.
  • Trading Curb – Restrictions or temporary halts in trading to prevent excessive volatility or market manipulation, which can impact the execution of trades.
  • Market Impact – The change in the price of an asset caused by executing a trade.
    • Typically leads to less favorable prices for large orders.
  • Market Depth – A measure of the market’s ability to sustain large orders without significant impacts on the price.
    • Indicates the liquidity of the asset.
  • Transaction Costs – The total expenses incurred in executing a trade, including brokerage fees, taxes, and the market impact cost.
    • Affects the net outcome of the trade.


Best Execution

This refers to the obligation of brokers and market participants to ensure the most advantageous order execution for their clients, considering factors such as:

  • price
  • speed
  • likelihood of execution and settlement
  • size, and
  • nature of the order

Best execution aims to maximize the value of a client’s trades.

Failure to achieve best execution can result in suboptimal trading outcomes, and could lead to higher costs and lower returns for clients.


Implementation Shortfall (Slippage)

Implementation shortfall, often referred to as slippage, is the difference between the decision price (the price at which a trader decides to transact) and the final execution price.

This discrepancy can occur due to market movement between the time an order is placed and when it is executed.

High volatility and low liquidity can exacerbate slippage, which can lead to significant costs (especially in large transactions or fast-moving markets).

Limit Orders vs. Market Orders

To avoid slippage, consider using limit orders only.

Market orders can execute at any price.


Trading Curb

Trading curbs are mechanisms put in place by stock exchanges to prevent extreme volatility or market manipulations.

They can include measures like circuit breakers that temporarily halt trading after prices hit predetermined thresholds.

While these curbs aim to stabilize markets, they can also pose execution risks by delaying or preventing the execution of trades.

This can lead to unfavorable execution prices once trading resumes.


Market Impact

Market impact refers to the effect a large order has on the price of a security.

Large orders, especially in a market with low liquidity, can significantly move the price, either up or down, depending on whether the order is a buy or sell.

This movement can be detrimental to the trader because it may force the execution of the order at less favorable prices, which can reduce the overall effectiveness of the trade.


Market Depth

Market depth is a measure of the market’s ability to sustain relatively large market orders without impacting the price of the security.

It’s closely related to liquidity.

A market with good depth can handle large orders without significant price changes, reducing the market impact.

In contrast, a market with poor depth might see significant price fluctuations even with relatively small orders.

This can increase the risk of adverse price movements during trade execution.


Transaction Costs

These are the costs associated with the execution of trades.

They include brokerage fees, commissions, bid-ask spreads, and any other expenses incurred during the transaction.

High transaction costs can erode the profitability of trades – particularly in strategies involving frequent trading or in markets with wider spreads and thinner trading activity.

This can also include illiquid assets like real estate, which tend to have significant transaction costs due to the complexity of buying and selling properties.

Effective management of these costs is important for achieving optimal trading outcomes.



Understanding and managing execution risks is essential in trading.

It involves a wide approach, considering market conditions, the size and nature of orders, and the strategies used to mitigate potential adverse impacts on trade execution.

This is a critical aspect of risk management in trading, and achieving better efficiency in this area is important for achieving long-term trading/investment goals.