Should I invest in foreign currency?

With growing global connectedness and digitisation extending over geographical borders, South Africans are presented with numerous investment opportunities beyond our borders. One such avenue is investing in foreign currencies, which can offer potential benefits, such as diversification, hedging against local economic risks, and promising returns. However, like any investment, investing in foreign currencies requires careful consideration, in-depth research and advice, and comprehensive understanding of the associated risks. In this article we will explore the factors to consider and the steps to take when investing in foreign currency as a South African.

Understanding foreign currency investing

Investing in foreign currency means buying and obtaining currencies, other than the South African rand (ZAR), with the intention of capitalising on exchange rate movements. This type of investment can be facilitated through various methods, including forex trading, currency exchange-traded funds, or foreign currency accounts. 

Before you start, do thorough research and analyse the currency in which you wish to invest. Factors to consider include economic indicators, monetary policies, trade balances, and geopolitical risks. Stay updated on market trends, leverage technical analysis tools, and consult reputable sources or financial advisers to make informed investment decisions. 


Factors to consider before embarking on foreign currency investing are threefold.


1. Risk tolerance

Before investing in foreign currency, assess your risk tolerance. Currency markets can be extremely volatile, and exchange rates can fluctuate, leading to potential gains or losses. Understand your capacity to handle risks and manage it in line with your risk appetite. Also evaluate the potential impact of foreign currency investing on your investment portfolio.

2. Economic and political factors

Stay informed about the economic and political developments in the countries which currencies you plan to invest in. Factors like interest rates, inflation, government policies, and geopolitical events can impact currency values significantly.

3. Currency volatility

Different currencies will have varying levels of volatility. Major global currencies like the United States (US) dollar, euro, yen, and British pound are regarded more stable, while currencies of emerging markets can be more unpredictable. Make sure to consider the potential risks associated with currency volatility and its impact on your investment returns.

Advantages of investing in foreign currencies

Investing in a foreign currency offers investors who seek to diversify their portfolios and explore new and potentially fruitful opportunities a range of benefits. While it carries certain risks, the rewards can be significant. 

Key advantages of investing in a foreign currency

  • Diversification One of the most obvious benefits is diversifying your investment portfolio and reducing the risk of reliance on a single currency.

  • Profit It enables you to take advantage of fluctuations in exchange rates.

  • Access to global markets It provides you with exposure to international markets, allowing you to tap into the growth potential of different economies, industries, and asset classes across the world. This broadens your investment horizons and enables you to benefit from emerging-market opportunities.

  • Speculative opportunities It can offer speculative opportunities for traders looking to profit from short-term market movements.

  • Portfolio hedging It can act as a hedge against currency risk. If you have international business operations, this can help mitigate the negative impacts of currency fluctuations on your business or investments. By strategically allocating funds into currencies that counterbalance your exposures, you can reduce your vulnerability to adverse currency movements.

How to invest in foreign currency

1. Establish an investment goal

Define your investment objectives. Whether for capital appreciation, diversification, or hedging against local currency risk, clarity will help determine a robust investment strategy and guide your decision-making process.

2. Open a foreign currency account

Choose a reputable bank or financial institution, like Nedbank, that offers foreign currency accounts. These accounts allow you to hold and transact in different currencies. Nedbank provides convenient access and competitive exchange rates and transaction costs.

3. Develop an investment strategy

Determine the appropriate investment strategy based on your goals and risk tolerance. (You can always reach out to a specialist for guidance.) Decide whether you want to actively trade currencies or adopt a long-term investment approach. Always take associated transaction costs and tax implications into consideration.

4. Stay informed and monitor market conditions

Be active in monitoring currency markets, stay updated on relevant news, as well as economic indicators. You can make use of financial news sources, economic calendars, and technical analysis tools to make informed decisions. Market conditions can change rapidly, so staying vigilant is essential.

5. Consider professional advice

If you lack experience or feel uncertain, seek advice from qualified professionals like financial advisers or currency specialists. They can provide valuable insights and help manage the complexities of foreign currency investing.

Investing in foreign currency can be an attractive option for South Africans seeking to diversify their investment portfolios and potentially benefit from exchange rate movements. However, it is crucial to approach foreign currency investing with careful consideration, thorough research, and a clear understanding of the associated risks.

By assessing your risk tolerance, staying informed, and following an in-depth investment strategy, you can make smart decisions and capitalise on the opportunities that the global currency markets present. Remember that currency investments can be volatile, and it is always wise to seek the advice of an expert.

Want to know more?

Here’s what to do:

  • Contact your financial planner.
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