What is a forward contract and how do they work?

What is a forward contract?

A forward contract (or forward trade) is an agreement to buy or sell a specific amount of currency, at a predetermined exchange rate, on a specific date in the future. Forward contracts are derivative financial instruments (i.e. their value is dependent on the changing value of the currencies involved) which are used to mitigate adverse currency fluctuations - they are used by many businesses to protect profits and bottom lines.

Forward contracts are priced in the same way as SPOT contracts, where a spread is charged to the FX rate. Forward pricing can vary from SPOT pricing based on numerous factors, including interest rate differentials between the 2 currencies and the period you are looking to secure the exchange rate for.

What are the benefits?

  • Gain protection against adverse moves in exchange rates - a fixed rate means budgets and forecasts will not be affected by FX volatility
  • Simplify your budgeting and forecasts with a guaranteed rate of exchange.
  • Enjoy a greater degree of certainty - be better able to predict cash flows and understand what will be received.
  • Lock in a favourable exchange rate now, for future currency requirements.
  • Enjoy a flexible payment plan - pay in full on a chosen date or spread your payments over the contract period.

What is required to secure a forward contract?

All forward contracts require an initial deposit on the contract to secure the trade. The deposit is held against the contract and will be deducted from the final drawdown of the contract.


Company A has a requirement to convert 1m USD into GBP in 6 months. Noting that the exchange rate is currently advantageous, they book a forward contract to mitigate any adverse moves in the market. On execution of this trade, Centtrip require Company A to pay an initial deposit of 10% (USD 100,000.00), which will be taken off the final sum of the amount due on the contract.

Company A's contract protects them from any adverse moves in the market, and avoids any currency risk - in 6 months, they know exactly what rate of exchange they will get when converting USD to GBP.

What is a ‘Margin Call’?

Throughout the contract, Centtrip’s treasury team will monitor the trade against the performance of the market.

If the market should move by 5% against the value of the trade, Centtrip will require additional collateral known as ‘Variation Margin’, to hold against the contract, in addition to the 10% deposit. It should be noted that this is not a charge/cost, this will be held additionally to the initial deposit.

This request for ‘Variation Margin’ is known as a ‘Margin call’ and needs to be sent to Centtrip within 48 hours of the request, subject to weekends and Bank holidays.

If Centtrip exercises a ‘Margin Call’ on a specific trade, this will be held against the forward contract, alongside the initial deposit. The additional collateral is held against the forward contract until its maturity date and then taken off the final sum of the amount due on the contract.

Please note, if required Centtrip may exercise multiple margin calls.

For more information, please refer to our Forward Contract Addendum.

What if I can’t pay the ‘Margin Call’?

If the ‘Margin Call’ request is not met within the timeframe of 48 hours, Centtrip reserves the right to close out the forward contract. In this scenario, if there is a financial loss, this will be taken from the initial deposit and any funds held against the trade. Should the financial loss exceed these amounts, this will be passed on to the client.

Things to consider before booking a forward contract.

Given that forward contracts are a derivative financial instrument, there is risk involved, as the market could move against the rate of the contract. The value/position of the contract will be monitored by Centtrip’s treasury department on an ongoing basis to make sure that we hold enough collateral against the contract.

You need to be aware that should the market move adversely, Centtrip may require additional funds to be sent within 48 hours notice. As a business, you need to make sure there is sufficient cash flow to facilitate more than one ‘Margin Call’. The longer the required duration of the contract, the greater the risk of the contract itself.

Is a forward contract right for you?

If you have any questions about the information above, or are not sure whether forwards are suitable or the best choice for you, please get in touch. Our expert team will help you make an informed decision based on your requirements. If we do not believe a forward trade is right for you at this stage, we will tell you.

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