The fig leaf strategy is also known as a leveraged covered call. Here’s how it works: buying a Long-term Equity AnticiPation Securities (LEAPS) call gives you the right to buy the stock at strike A. Selling the call at strike B obligates you to sell stock at that strike price if you’re assigned.

This strategy acts like a covered call but uses the LEAPS call as a surrogate for owning the stock. Though the two plays are similar, managing options with two different expiration dates makes a leveraged covered call a little trickier to run than a regular covered call.

The goal here is to purchase a LEAPS call that will see price changes similar to the stock. So look for a call with a delta of 0.80 or more. As a starting point, when searching for an appropriate delta, check options that are at least 20% in-the-money. But for a particularly volatile stock, you may need to go deeper in-the-money to find the delta you’re looking for.

Some investors favor this strategy over a covered call because you don’t have to put up all the capital to buy the stock. That means the premium you receive for selling the call will represent a higher percentage of your initial investment than if you bought the stock outright. In other words, the potential return is leveraged.

There are additional risks to keep in mind; unlike stock, LEAPS eventually expire. When they do, it’s possible that you could lose the entire value of your initial investment.

Unlike a covered call (where you typically wouldn’t mind being assigned on the short option), when running a fig leaf you don’t want to be assigned on the short call because you don’t actually own the stock yet. You only own the right to buy the stock at strike A.

You wouldn’t want to exercise the long LEAPS call to buy the stock because of all the time value you’d give up. Instead, you hope your short call will expire out-of-the-money so you can sell another, and then another, and then another until the long LEAPS call expires.


Maximum Potential Profit

Potential profit is limited to the premium received for sale of the front-month call plus the performance of the LEAPS call.
NOTE: You can’t precisely calculate potential profit at initiation of this strategy, because it depends on how the LEAPS call performs and the premium received for the sale of additional short-term calls (if any) at later dates.

Maximum Potential Loss

Potential risk is limited to the debit paid to establish the strategy.
NOTE: You can’t precisely calculate your risk at initiation of this strategy, because it depends on how the LEAPS call performs and the premium received for the sale of additional short-term calls (if any) at later dates.

Break-even at Expiration

It is possible to approximate break-even points, but there are too many variables to give an exact formula.

Because there are two expiration dates for the options in a fig leaf, a pricing model must be used to guesstimate what the value of the back-month call will be when the front-month call expires. Ally Invest’s Profit + Loss Calculator can help you in this regard. But keep in mind, the Profit + Loss Calculator assumes that all other variables, such as implied volatility, interest rates, etc., remain constant over the life of the trade — and they may not behave that way in reality.


Ally Invest Margin Requirements

After the trade is paid for, no additional margin is required.


Time Decay

Time decay is your friend, because the front-month option(s) you sell will lose their value faster than the back-month long LEAPS call.


Implied Volatility

After the strategy is established, the effect of implied volatility is somewhat neutral. Although it will increase the value of the call you sold (bad) it will also increase the value of the LEAPS call you bought (good).


Final Thought

Some investors choose to run this strategy on an expensive stock that they would like to trade, but don’t want to spend the capital to buy at least 100 shares.

If the stock price exceeds the strike price of the short option before expiration, you might want to consider closing out the entire position. If the strategy was implemented correctly, you should see a profit in such a case.

If you do get assigned on the short call, don’t make the mistake of exercising the LEAPS call. Sell the LEAPS call on the open market so you’ll capture the time value (if there’s any remaining) along with the intrinsic value. Simultaneously buy the stock to cover your newly created short stock position. This is a situation when it pays to have a broker who really understands options. So give us a call at Ally Invest and we’ll help you through the process.

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