What is Scenario Analysis? A Comprehensive Step by Step Guide

is the process of determining the expected value of a portfolio after a certain period, assuming specific changes in the values of the portfolio’s assets or important events such as an interest rate shift. The study is often used to forecast changes in a portfolio’s value in response to a bad event, and it may also be used to analyze a speculative worst-case scenario. Scenario Analysis in Financial Modelling is commonly used to forecast changes in a firm’s value or cash flow, particularly when there are potentially positive and negative events that might affect the company.

Scenario Analysis In Financial Modelling

Scenario analysis is the act of researching and evaluating hypothetical future events or scenarios, as well as forecasting various plausible conclusions or probable results. When estimating earnings or projected losses, most corporate executives use scenario analysis to estimate the best-case scenario as well as the worst-case scenario. This strategy may be used by those who are preparing to make a major investment, such as purchasing a home or starting a business. This book will show you why scenario analysis is important and how to perform it on your own.

Scenario planning, scenario thinking, scenario analysis, scenario prediction, and the scenario technique are all terms used to describe a strategic planning process used by certain businesses to create adaptable long-term strategies. It is mostly an adaptation and generalization of traditional military intelligence tactics.

Scenario planning may incorporate characteristics of systems thinking, notably the realization that multiple factors may interact in complicated ways to produce unexpected outcomes (due to non-linear feedback loops). The technique also allows for the incorporation of aspects that are difficult to codify, such as fresh future discoveries, profound transformations in values, and unique rules or technologies. When systems thinking is combined with scenario planning, convincing scenario stories emerge because the causal link between elements can be proved. These are known as “dynamic scenarios” when scenario planning is combined with systems thinking approach to scenario construction.

Scenario Analysis in Financial Modeling: Working 

Scenario analysis is a technique that involves calculating different reinvestment rates for expected returns that are reinvested across the investment horizon. 

Scenario analysis, which is based on mathematical and statistical principles, provides a strategy for evaluating shifts in the value of a portfolio based on the occurrence of multiple events, referred to as scenarios, by employing the notions of “what if” analysis or sensitivity analysis. Sensitivity analysis investigates how different independent variable values affect a dependent variable under certain situations.

Scenario Analysis: Principles

Making up Situations

Scenarios are combinations and permutations of facts and related societal developments. Scenarios are often composed of believable yet surprisingly significant circumstances and challenges that exist in some form in the present day. Any specific situation is unlikely. Analysts in future studies, on the other hand, choose scenario aspects that are both feasible and uncomfortable. Scenario planning assists policymakers and businesses in anticipating change, preparing reactions, and developing more comprehensive plans.

Scenarios of Zero-sum Games

Scenarios are also created by strategic military intelligence agencies. The methodology and organizations are nearly identical, with the exception that scenario planning is used for a broader range of challenges than only military and political issues.

The primary issue of scenario planning, like in military intelligence, is determining policymakers’ true needs, because policymakers may not know what they need to know or may not know how to articulate the information that they truly need.

Good analysts create wargames such that policymakers have a lot of leeway in adapting their simulated organizations. The situations are then “pressed” on these simulated organizations as the game progresses. Typically, specific categories of information become more essential.


Scenario Analysis: Cases Creation 

Managers and executives of a corporation develop several future states of the business, industry, and economy when completing the analysis. These future states will be represented by discrete scenarios that incorporate assumptions about product pricing, customer metrics, operating expenses, inflation, interest rates, and other business variables.

Managers commonly begin with three main scenarios:

Base-Case Scenario

The base case scenario is the most likely situation based on management expectations. For instance, when calculating net present value, the most common rates to be utilized are the discount rate, cash flow growth rate, and tax rate.

Worst-Case Scenario

Considers the most severe or dangerous event that might occur in a particular situation. To calculate the net present value, use the greatest feasible discount rate and deduct the highest possible cash flow growth rate or the highest predicted tax rate.

Best-Case Scenario 

This is the optimum anticipated scenario that is virtually always implemented by management to fulfil their goals. For instance, when calculating net present value, choose the lowest feasible discount rate, lowest feasible tax rate, and the fastest feasible growth rate.


Scenario Analysis: Particular Considerations

Example of Scenario Analysis

Stress testing is a type of scenario analysis that concentrates on the worst-case scenarios. Stress testing is a technique that is widely used to assess the resilience of institutions and investment portfolios in the face of potentially catastrophic future events. In the financial business, such testing is often used to determine investment risk and asset sufficiency. Internal processes and controls can also be evaluated via stress testing. Authorities have also demanded in recent years that financial institutions undergo stress tests to ensure that their capital and other assets are adequate.

Analysis of Scenarios and Investment Strategy

Scenario analysis may be approached in a variety of ways. One typical method is to compute the standard deviation of daily or monthly securities returns and then calculate the portfolio value if each investment returns two or three standard deviations above and below the average return. An analyst can have a reasonable degree of certainty regarding the change in the value of a portfolio over a given period by recreating these extremes.

Scenarios under consideration can be related to a single variable, such as the relative success or failure of a new product launch, or a mix of elements, such as the product launch outcomes combined with potential changes in the activities of competing firms. The purpose is to establish investing strategy by analyzing the consequences of the most severe events.

Personal and Corporate Finance Scenario Analysis

The same technique used to assess probable investment scenarios may be used to examine value movements based on speculative scenarios in a variety of different financial circumstances. On the consumer side, scenario analysis may be used to assess the various financial effects of purchasing an item on credit rather than saving the funds for a cash purchase. When determining whether to accept a new job offer, a person might also consider the numerous financial changes that may occur.

Businesses can use scenario analysis to examine the prospective financial consequences of specific actions, such as deciding between two locations or storefronts from which to operate. This might include differences in rent, utility expenses, and insurance, as well as any benefits that may exist in one area but not the other.

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Scenario Analysis: Advantages 

Managers and investors do this sort of investigation for a variety of reasons. Predicting the future is an inherently dangerous profession, therefore it’s essential to consider as many potential scenarios as possible.

Among the many advantages are:

Future Planning – It provides investors with an idea of the projected rewards and risks associated with future investments. The purpose of every company effort is to raise income over time, and predictive analysis is best used when considering whether to include an investment in a portfolio.

Proactive – Companies may minimize or reduce possible losses caused by uncontrolled causes by being aggressively preventative during worst-case scenarios by assessing events and situations that may result in unfavorable consequences.

Avoiding Risk and Failure – Scenario analysis allows firms or independent investors to examine investment possibilities to avoid making poor investment decisions. Scenario analysis in financial modelling considers the best and worst-case scenarios so that investors may make an informed decision.

Investment Return or Loss Projection – The study uses techniques to determine the values or numbers of possible gains or losses from an investment. This provides solid, measurable facts on which investors may base their efforts for a (hopefully) better outcome.


Scenario Analysis in Financial Modelling: Disadvantages 

Requires a High Degree of Competence – Scenario analysis in financial modelling is a time-consuming and challenging procedure that necessitates high-level skills and knowledge.

Unforeseen Outcomes – Because it is impossible to predict what will happen in the future, the real outcome may be completely unanticipated and not predicted in the financial modelling.

Cannot Model Every Situation – It may be impossible to imagine and assign a probability to every potential circumstance. Investors must recognize that there are risk elements involved with the results, and they must evaluate a specific level of risk tolerance to achieve the desired end.

Scenario Analysis: Applications 


In the past, strategic plans were frequently limited to the “official future,” which was typically a straight-line graph of present trends projected into the future. The accounting department often developed the trend lines, which lacked considerations of demography or qualitative variations in socioeconomic situations.

These crude assumptions are remarkably accurate most of the time, but they fail to take into consideration their effect on business and the government. Paul J. H. Schoemaker made a compelling managerial argument for the use of scenario planning in business.

The method may have had a greater influence outside of Shell than within since many other organisations and consultants began to profit from scenario planning as well. Scenario planning is an art as well as a science, and it is prone to several traps (both in approach and content), as Paul J. H. Schoemaker describes. Scenario planning has lately been explored as a method for improving strategic agility by mentally preparing not just different scenarios but also several consistent strategies.


Military strategists are also big fans of military scenario planning. Most governments’ departments of war keep a constantly updated set of strategic plans in place to deal with well-known military or strategic concerns. 

These plans are nearly usually based on scenarios, and the plans and scenarios are frequently kept up to date through war simulations, which are occasionally acted out with real troops. The Prussian general staff of the mid-nineteenth century carried out (and perhaps originated) this approach.


A financial institution may utilize scenario analysis in economics and finance to estimate multiple different scenarios for the economy (e.g., rapid growth, moderate growth, slow growth) and financial market returns (for bonds, equities, and cash) in each of those situations. It may take into account the subsets of each of the choices. 

It might also try to find relationships and assign a probability to the situations (and sub-sets if any). The institution can then evaluate how to divide assets among asset categories (i.e. asset allocation); it can also compute the scenario-weighted anticipated return (which figure will indicate the overall attractiveness of the financial environment). It may also conduct stress testing with negative situations.

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Scenario Analysis Uses

It should be noted that scenarios may be employed in a variety of ways:

Driver and Event String Containers

They are, in essence, a logical device, an artificial framework, for presenting individual factors/topics (or coherent groups of these) in such a way that they are easily accessible to managers – as useful ideas about future developments in their own right – without reference to the rest of the scenario. It should be emphasized that no components should be eliminated or given lower priority as a result of developing the scenarios. In this situation, it makes no difference which scenario comprises which topic (driver) or future concern. 

Consistency Tests

It is necessary to iterate at each stage to ensure that the contents are viable and to make any necessary changes to ensure that they are; the main test here is to see if the scenarios appear to be internally consistent – if they are not, the writer must return to earlier stages to correct the problem. Though it has been said earlier, it is crucial to emphasize that scenario development is ideally an iterative process. It normally does not happen in a single meeting – though even one effort is better than none – across a series of sessions as the participants increasingly improve their thoughts.

Positive Outlooks

The major usefulness of scenarios, however, may be the diverse ‘flavors’ of the future that their various views provide. When the scenarios finally emerge, it is common for the participants to be taken aback by the insight they provide – as to what the general shape of the future might be – at this point it is no longer a theoretical exercise but a genuine framework (or rather set of alternative frameworks) for dealing with that.

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Scenario Analysis in Financial Modelling: Process

The primary portion of the whole process, the actual generation of the scenarios, is markedly distinct from most other kinds of long-term planning. Even this, at its most basic level, is pretty straightforward. According to the technique most widely employed by Shell, it consists of six steps:

Step 1: Determine the Assumptions/drivers of Change

The first step is to study the results of the environmental analysis to discover which elements will define the character of the future environment in which the organization functions. These elements are commonly referred to as ‘variables’ (because they will vary over the time being investigated, though the terminology may confuse scientists who use it more rigorously).

Step 2: Gather Drivers into a Workable Framework

The next stage is to connect these drivers to form a coherent framework. This may be visible in cases where some of the components are tied to one another in some way. For example, a technology component may cause market changes yet be limited by legal considerations. On the other hand, at this time, some of the ‘links’ (or at least the ‘groupings’) may need to be fake.

Step 3: Create Preliminary Mini scenarios

The previous stage normally yields between seven and nine logical driver groupings. This is typically simple to accomplish. The ‘natural’ rationale for this might be that it indicates a restriction on what participants can see.

After categorizing the components, the next step is to determine, very roughly at this point, what their relationship is. What does each factor group represent?

Step 4: Reduce the Number of Possibilities to Two or Three

At this step, the major goal is to compress the seven to nine mini-scenarios/groupings discovered in the previous stage to two or three bigger scenarios. There is no theoretical reason to limit the number of possibilities to two or three, simply a practical one. It has been discovered that managers who will be requested to utilize the final scenarios can only handle a maximum of three variations! Shell began more than three decades ago by developing a half-dozen or more scenarios but discovered that their management chose only one of them to focus on.

Step 5: Create the Scenarios

The situations are then ‘written up’ in the best format possible. Participants are frequently perplexed by the flexibility of this stage since they are accustomed to forecasting procedures with a predetermined framework. The guideline is, however, that you should create the scenarios in the format that will be most useful to the managers who will base their strategy on them. Less clearly, the managers who will implement this approach should be considered as well. They will also be exposed to scenarios and must believe in them. This is a marketing choice as it will be critical to selling the end outcomes to people.

Step 6: Identify Any Concerns that May Arise

The approach culminates with an examination of these scenarios to find the most crucial outcomes; the ‘branching points’ about the ‘problems’ that will have the greatest influence (possibly causing ‘crises’) on the organization’s future. The subsequent strategy will have to address these, because the standard approach to scenario-based strategy aims to minimize risk by being ‘robust’ (that is, it will safely deal with all of the alternative outcomes of these ‘life and death’ issues), rather than aiming for performance (profit) maximization by gambling on one outcome.

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Frequently Asked Questions 

Q1. In risk management, what is scenario analysis?

As previously said, scenario analysis entails a careful examination of a wide variety of possible outcomes, including those on the negative side. Risk managers may use this to identify, plan for, and manage risk exposures.

Q2. What is the distinction between scenario and sensitivity analysis?

Scenario analysis considers a wide variety of possible outcomes, but it also considers the impact of changing all variables at the same time. As a result, a base-case scenario, a best-case scenario, and a worst-case scenario are often produced.

Q3. What are the benefits of scenario planning?

The most significant benefit of scenario analysis is that it provides an in-depth study of all conceivable scenarios. As a result, managers may put decisions to the test, understand the possible influence of certain factors, and detect potential dangers.

Q4. What are the drawbacks of scenario planning?

The primary downside of scenario analysis is straightforward: erroneous assumptions can result in models that are far off the mark—or “garbage in, garbage out.” Scenario analysis is also prone to human biases and is primarily reliant on past data.


Scenario analysis in financial modelling assists businesses in planning their company strategy by testing their future assumptions. It enables management to detect possible hazards and devise strategies to limit their impact.

Scenario analysis in financial modelling is not without flaws, and these should be considered while building a scenario analysis framework. When adapted to individual conditions utilizing distinct factors, the scenario analysis matrix works best.

The impact of the activity, however, and the amount of ambiguity assist to define the parameters. A financial modeller should map out all conceivable situations to decide the optimal alternative. For more articles on interesting topics please visit IIM SKILLS.

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