Winding Down: How to Close a Large Position Effectively

This guide is what you need to wind down those big trades, cut market impact, and secure favorable outcomes. Let’s dive into the world of unwinding strategies of experts.
Tony A.
Chief Communication Officer
Editor-in-Chief of the Walbi blog. Connect with him about writing techniques, cryptocurrency, and music.
September 1, 2023
Winding Down: How to Close a Large Position Effectively

Mastering the art of closing a substantial financial position is no easy task. It demands smart planning and precise execution. This guide is what you need to wind down those big trades, cut market impact, and secure favorable outcomes. Let’s dive into the world of unwinding strategies of experts. 

Understanding the importance of winding down

Closing a large position is a critical phase in trading. It involves liquidating a large amount of an asset in a short period of time. It can create various consequences for the market and for you.

One of the main challenges of winding down is to cut the market impact. It is the effect of trade on the price and liquidity of an asset. A large trade can cause significant price movements, especially in illiquid or volatile markets

This movement can affect the profitability and risk of the unwinding strategy. Also, a large trade can also trigger reactions from other market participants. They may try to exploit or counteract the price movement.

Strategic planning for unwinding positions

Before initiating the unwinding process, you must check the reasons for winding down. Be clear with your goals for the process. The reasons for winding down may vary depending on the trader’s or investor’s strategy and situation. 

Some common reasons are:

  • Profit-taking: Closing a profitable position to realize gains and lock in profits
  • Risk management: Closing a risky position to reduce exposure and limit losses
  • Portfolio rebalancing: Adjust the portfolio’s composition with the desired risk profile
  • Strategic shift: Free up capital and resources for new opportunities in the market

The goals for unwinding can depend on several reasons. This includes your preferences and constraints. Some common goals and objectives are target price, time horizon, and exit strategy.

Analyzing market conditions and timing

When preparing to unwind a position, it's crucial to assess market conditions and timing beforehand. 

Market conditions encompass factors like

  • liquidity, 
  • volatility, 
  • trends, 
  • and signals. 

This could impact an asset's supply and demand.  Liquidity gauges an asset's ease of buying or selling without price disturbance. Volatility measures price fluctuations over time. Trends highlight an asset's general price direction. Signals encompass indicators or events affecting an asset's price movement.

Timing involves selecting optimal trade execution moments during unwinding. You should consider market conditions, market hours, news releases, and global events.  Market hours denote an asset's trading windows. News releases comprise announcements influencing an asset's price. Global events are incidents with major effects on global markets or economies.

Implementing gradual unwinding strategies

One of the most common and effective ways to unwind a large position is to use gradual unwinding strategies. This involves closing the position over time by executing smaller trades. You can execute it at regular intervals or based on market signals.

Gradual unwinding strategies can help reduce the market impact and risk of closing a large position. They allow for more control and flexibility over the execution and outcome of the process. By executing smaller trades, you can avoid price movements or attract unwanted attention. You can take advantage of favorable market conditions and timing by spreading the trades. You can also adjust the strategy if needed based on changing circumstances or new information.

Utilizing order types for effective unwinding

Another important aspect of implementing unwinding strategies is to use order types. They are instructions that specify how to execute a trade price, quantity, and timing. Some of the different types of orders that you can use to unwind large positions, such as: 

  • Market orders: Orders that execute immediately at the current market price, regardless of price changes.
  • Limit orders: Orders that execute only at a specified price or better, but not worse.
  • Stop orders: Orders that execute only when the market price reaches a specified level, usually to limit losses or lock in profits.
  • Trailing stop orders: It follows the market price by a specified amount or percentage. It is usually to lock in profits while allowing for further gains.

Minimizing market impact and slippage

When unwinding substantial positions, a key goal is to minimize market impact and slippage. Market impact pertains to how trades affect an asset's price and liquidity. Slippage itself means the disparity between expected and actual trade prices.  

Suggested reading: What is Slippage (and how to avoid it)?

These factors significantly influence the profitability and risk of unwinding strategies. High market impact can trigger substantial price shifts, jeopardizing profitability and amplifying risk. Elevated slippage leads to execution challenges and losses due to unfavorable pricing.

To mitigate market impact and slippage, consider these strategies:

  1. Opt for limit orders over market orders to retain better control over execution prices and decrease the risk of price fluctuations.
  2. Divide large orders into smaller ones and execute them across various platforms. This diminishes the trades' visibility and impact on the market.
  3. Refrain from trading during periods of low liquidity or high volatility. These conditions heighten the chances of price swings and slippage.

Communication and transparency

Next, communicating with the stakeholders is also important. Transparent communication can help mitigate misunderstandings and conflicts that can arise. By informing others about the goals and progress of the process, you can:

  • Gain trust and support from their stakeholders, clients, or colleagues.
  • Avoid accusations of market manipulation, insider trading, or breach of fiduciary duty.
  • Receive feedback or suggestions that may improve their unwinding strategies.

To communicate effectively with stakeholders, employ clear and concise language suitable for the context and audience. Provide accurate information supported by facts and data. Lastly, always maintain honesty and consistency in discussing trading decisions and outcomes.

Monitoring and adjusting the unwinding plan

Monitoring and adjusting the unwinding plan can help optimize the results. You also can avoid potential pitfalls. This way you can identify opportunities or threats that may affect the objectives or strategies. You also can adjust trade size, frequency, duration, or order type to suit the changing circumstances or new information. Also, you can change the target price or exit strategy to achieve the desired outcomes. 

Case Studies: Real-world unwinding scenarios

Some examples of real-world unwinding scenarios are:

  • Long-Term Capital Management’s (LTCM) positions in 1998. This strategy resulted in a massive loss of $4.6 billion due to market shocks and a lack of risk management.

  • Bill Ackman’s short position on Herbalife in 2018. His strategy has created a loss of $1 billion due to market trends, regulatory issues, and competition.

  • SoftBank’s call options on US tech stocks in 2020. Softbank has been able to generate a profit of $4 billion. They achieve this by good market timing and diversification strategy.

Risk Management and Contingency Plans

One of the important aspects of unwinding large positions is to manage risk and develop contingency plans. This strategy is useful for unexpected challenges or emergencies. Risk management is the process of identifying and mitigating potential risks during the process. Some common risks are:

  • Market risk: The possibility of losing money due to price movements or market conditions.
  • Execution risk: Risk of failing to execute the trade at the desired price or time. This risk happens due to technical glitches, human errors, or regulatory issues.
  • Operational risk: Risk of facing problems in the field. It is related to systems and operators. 

Psychological Considerations for Traders and Investors

Make sure your emotion does not get in your way when making decisions. You may feel fear, greed, or uncertainty. This can make you act irrationally. For example, you may close your position too soon or too late. 

You could also be inconsistent with your strategy. You also may ignore important market information. To avoid these mistakes, you should have a clear and realistic plan. Be reminded to set reasonable goals and objectives. Not to mention that feedback from others could be beneficial.


You can prove your trading skills by managing the closure of large positions. You can navigate the intricacies by adopting a strategic approach. Further, you need to understand market dynamics and plan in advance. This will help you to reduce market impact. You can also reach your goals as you wind down your positions.

Tony A.
Tony A.
Chief Communication Officer
Editor-in-Chief of the Walbi blog. Connect with him about writing techniques, cryptocurrency, and music.
September 1, 2023
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