Systematic Risk vs. Systemic Risk

What's the Difference?

Systematic risk and systemic risk are two distinct concepts in the field of finance and economics. Systematic risk refers to the overall risk inherent in the entire market or a particular asset class. It is caused by factors that affect the entire market, such as economic recessions, political instability, or changes in interest rates. Systematic risk cannot be eliminated through diversification and affects all investments to some extent. On the other hand, systemic risk refers to the risk of a widespread failure or disruption in the financial system that can lead to a collapse of the entire system. It arises from interconnectedness and interdependencies among financial institutions, where the failure of one institution can trigger a domino effect and impact the stability of the entire system. Systemic risk is a more severe form of risk and can have catastrophic consequences for the economy.


AttributeSystematic RiskSystemic Risk
DefinitionRisk that is inherent to the entire market or an entire market segmentRisk that affects the entire financial system or economy
OriginArises from factors that are external to a specific company or industryArises from factors that are inherent to the financial system or economy
ImpactAffects the overall market or market segmentAffects the entire financial system or economy
UnpredictabilityCan be partially diversified through portfolio managementDifficult to diversify or mitigate due to its widespread nature
ExamplesMarket crashes, interest rate changes, political instabilityFinancial crises, economic recessions, systemic banking failures

Further Detail


When it comes to understanding and managing risks in the financial world, two terms that often come up are systematic risk and systemic risk. While they may sound similar, they refer to different aspects of risk that investors and policymakers need to consider. In this article, we will explore the attributes of systematic risk and systemic risk, highlighting their differences and importance in the financial landscape.

Systematic Risk

Systematic risk, also known as market risk or non-diversifiable risk, refers to the risk that affects the entire market or a specific segment of it. It is inherent in the overall market conditions and cannot be eliminated through diversification. Systematic risk is caused by factors such as economic cycles, interest rate fluctuations, political instability, and natural disasters.

One key attribute of systematic risk is its non-diversifiable nature. This means that no matter how well an investor diversifies their portfolio, they cannot completely eliminate systematic risk. It affects all investments in the market, regardless of their specific characteristics or the efforts made to mitigate risk.

Another attribute of systematic risk is its impact on the overall market. When systematic risk materializes, it can lead to a decline in the value of most or all investments. This is because the factors driving systematic risk affect the entire market, causing a broad-based decline in asset prices. Investors need to be aware of this risk and take it into account when making investment decisions.

Furthermore, systematic risk is often measured using beta, a statistical measure that indicates the sensitivity of an investment's returns to changes in the overall market. Investments with a beta greater than 1 are considered more sensitive to systematic risk, while those with a beta less than 1 are considered less sensitive. This measure helps investors assess the level of systematic risk associated with a particular investment.

Lastly, systematic risk is an essential consideration for portfolio managers and investors. By understanding the systematic risk associated with different investments, they can make informed decisions about asset allocation and risk management strategies. It allows them to assess the potential impact of market-wide events on their portfolios and take appropriate measures to mitigate risk.

Systemic Risk

While systematic risk refers to market-wide risk, systemic risk refers to the risk of a breakdown or failure within the financial system as a whole. It is the risk that an event or shock in one part of the system can spread and cause widespread disruptions or even a collapse of the entire system. Systemic risk is often associated with the interconnectedness and interdependencies within the financial system.

One attribute of systemic risk is its potential to cause a domino effect. When a systemic risk event occurs, it can trigger a chain reaction of failures or defaults across various institutions or markets. This contagion effect can rapidly spread and amplify the initial shock, leading to severe consequences for the financial system and the broader economy.

Another attribute of systemic risk is its complexity. Unlike systematic risk, which can be measured using statistical tools like beta, systemic risk is challenging to quantify and predict. It involves understanding the intricate relationships and dependencies between different entities within the financial system, including banks, insurance companies, and other financial intermediaries.

Furthermore, systemic risk is a concern for regulators and policymakers. They need to monitor and manage systemic risk to maintain the stability and integrity of the financial system. This involves implementing regulations, conducting stress tests, and establishing mechanisms to address potential systemic risk events. The 2008 global financial crisis serves as a stark reminder of the devastating consequences that systemic risk can have on the economy.

Lastly, systemic risk can arise from various sources, including financial imbalances, excessive leverage, inadequate risk management practices, or even technological disruptions. Identifying and addressing these sources of systemic risk is crucial to safeguarding the financial system and preventing future crises.


While systematic risk and systemic risk share some similarities in terms of their impact on the financial landscape, they differ in their scope and nature. Systematic risk refers to market-wide risk that affects all investments, while systemic risk refers to the risk of a breakdown within the financial system as a whole. Understanding and managing both types of risk are essential for investors, portfolio managers, and policymakers to navigate the complexities of the financial world and ensure the stability of the system.

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