Understanding the Volatility Risk Premium

Topics - Volatility Market Risk and Efficiency Derivatives Portfolio Risk and Performance

Read Time - 15 minutes

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Understanding the Volatility Risk Premium

The volatility risk premium (VRP) represents the compensation that investors earn for providing protection against unexpected market volatility. This paper first describes the VRP and the reasons why it may exist. We then explore its historical performance with a simple option-selling strategy and conclude by discussing approaches for including it in a portfolio.


What's Inside?

  • The volatility risk premium (VRP) represents the reward for bearing an asset’s risk (e.g., equity downside risk). Such protection in financial instruments is best represented by option contracts. The insurance risk premium in options reflects investors’ risk aversion and their tendency to overestimate the probability of significant losses.
  • We believe an investor can systematically exploit these risk preferences and behavioral biases through an option-selling strategy and we show how it may benefit investor portfolios over the long run. 
  • Investors interested in adding the VRP to their portfolios can do so in a variety of ways. The strategy can be a stand-alone portfolio, one of multiple sleeves of a multi-alternative portfolio, part of a buy-write strategy, or part of a volatility-enhanced equity strategy.


The VRP is the compensation that investors earn for providing protection against market losses. In doing so, they are underwriting insurance — primarily option contracts — and as with all insurance, the underwriter seeks a risk premium. We show that the VRP has historically tended to deliver strong risk-adjusted returns and that it may provide useful diversification within an investor’s portfolio. Interested investors could consider adding the strategy alongside traditional long-only strategies or use it in conjunction with other non-traditional return sources.

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The information contained herein is only as current as of the date indicated, and may be superseded by subsequent market events or for other reasons. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of AQR Capital Management, LLC, its affiliates or its employees. This information is not intended to, and does not relate specifically to any investment strategy or product that AQR offers. It is being provided merely to provide a framework to assist in the implementation of an investor’s own analysis and an investor’s own view on the topic discussed herein. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.


Hypothetical performance results have many inherent limitations, some of which, but not all, are described herein. The hypothetical performance shown was derived from the retroactive application of a model developed with the benefit of hindsight.  Hypothetical performance results are presented for illustrative purposes only.


Diversification does not eliminate the risk of experiencing investment loss.


Certain publications may have been written prior to the author being an employee of AQR.

This material is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or tax advice, nor is it intended to replace the advice of a qualified attorney or tax advisor.


AQR Capital Management is a global investment management firm, which may or may not apply similar investment techniques or methods of analysis as described herein. The views expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily those of AQR.