May 30, 2024

Understanding Profit and Loss (PnL) in the Financial World

Profit and Loss, which is commonly referred to as PnL, is a financial report that aggregates the revenue, expense, and profit during a particular period. In general, it is the total profit or loss that is derived from an organization. 


In the traditional financial world, PnL is employed by companies to assess their potential profitability and make decisions regarding strategy. Meanwhile, in the cryptocurrency world, where instability is a constant component, PnL is crucial to traders and investors as it assess the performance of their digital assets and transactions.


Basics of PnL in Crypto

When considered as a cryptocurrency, PnL has several important concepts that are associated with it.


Mark-to-Market (MTM)

The process of valuing assets at their current market value is called Mark-to-Market. In the context of crypto trading, MTM is the process of calculating the current market value of assets, such as cryptocurrencies, at the conclusion of each daily trading session. This facilitates the assessment of the current PnL of traders by taking the most recent market prices into account.


Example of Mark-to-Market (MTM): let's assume a merchant owns 1 Bitcoin (BTC) and 10 Ethereum (ETH) at the conclusion of a daily trading period. The MTM process calculates the value of these holdings at the current prices of BTC and ETH, then determines the trader's current profit based on these prices.


Realized PnL

Realized PnL is the actual profit or loss that is documented once a transaction is concluded. It's the difference between the price that is sold and the price that is purchased, considering the costs associated with the transaction.


Example of Realized PnL: if a merchant purchased 5 BTC for $50,000 each and then sold them for $60,000 each, the realized PnL would be ($60,000 - $50,000) * 5 BTC = $50,000 in revenue, including the cost of the transaction.


Unrealized PnL

On the other hand, Unrealized PnL is the profit or loss of the paper in open positions that have not been closed. It's indicative of the potential monetary gain or loss based on the current value of the assets, but it's not actually realized until the position is closed.


Example of Unrealized PnL: if a merchant holds 100 ETH that were purchased at $3,000 per piece, and the current price of ETH is $3,500, the unrealized PnL would be ($3,500 - $3,000) * 100 ETH = $5,000 in unrealized profit until the position is closed.


Calculating PnL

The process of calculating PnL for digital assets involves multiple methods that have their own specifics.


Here's a detailed step-by-step guide of how to calculate Profit and Loss (PnL) for digital assets:


Step 1. Determine the cost base. Start by recording the cost of each unit of the digital asset. This includes the cost of each purchase as well as any associated fees, such as those associated with the transaction.


Step 2. Track the price. When a digital asset is transferred, document the cost of each unit of the asset, including any fees associated with the transfer.


Step 3. Compute the realized PnL. The realized PnL for each transaction is determined by subtracting the total cost of the units that are sold from the total revenue generated by the transaction, including any associated costs.


Methods of calculating the cost base


* FIFO (First-In, First-Out)

This method assumes that the units purchased first will be sold first. The cost basis for units sold is based on the price of the earliest unit purchased.



Purchase 1: Purchase 1 BTC at $10,000.

Purchase 2: Purchase 1 BTC with a price of $12,000.

Selling: Sell 1 BTC for $15,000 using FIFO, the base cost of the sold BTC is $10,000, which results in a realized profit of $5,000 ($15,000 - $10,000).


* LIFO (Last-In, First-Out)

This method supposes that the most recently purchased units are the first to be released. The base cost of each sold unit is derived from the price of the most recent acquisitions.



Purchase 1: Purchase 1 BTC at $10,000.

Purchase 2: Purchase 1 BTC with a price of $12,000.

Selling: Sell 1 BTC for $15,000 using LIFO, the cost of the sold BTC is $12,000, which results in a realized profit of $3,000 ($15,000 - $12,000).


* Weighted Average Cost

This method estimates the cost of basis by taking the average cost of all the units owned, and then calculating the total cost of acquisition.



Purchase 1: Purchase 1 BTC at $10,000.

Purchase 2: Purchase 1 BTC with a price of $12,000.

Selling: Sell 1 BTC for $15,000 Using the weighted average cost, the cost of the sold BTC is (($10,000 + $12,000) / 2) = $11,000, which results in a realized PnL of $4,000 ($15,000 - $11,000).


Practical Applications

Understanding and calculating PnL can benefit users in optimizing their financial strategies in several ways:


1. Informed decision-making. By comprehending PnL, users are able to make informed decisions regarding their finances, investments, and trading. They have the ability to assess the returnability of their positions, identify patterns, and alter their strategies based on the results.


2. Risk management. The calculation of PnL facilitates the management of risk by providing information on the potential benefits and drawbacks of financial activity. This comprehension facilitates the implementation of risk mitigation strategies and the determination of appropriate stop loss levels.


3. Performance Evaluation. PnL calculation allows users to assess the effectiveness of their investments and trading according to time. It assists them in recognizing their accomplishments, recognizing effective strategies, and learning from unsuccessful ones.


4. Tax reporting. Understanding the distinction between realized and unrealized PnL is crucial to accurate tax reporting, specifically regarding digital assets. Users can deduce their tax debt based on the amount of money they've gained or lost, as well as assess their unrealized profits or losses for potential tax consequences.


5. Portfolio optimization. PnL analysis can help users to maximize the efficiency of their investment portfolios by recognizing assets that are under performing, balancing the allocation of resources, and reallocating resources based on their risk tolerance and financial goals.


6. Long-term strategy planning. By comprehending PnL, users can formulate and improve their long-term financial plans. They can establish realistic financial objectives, direct resources toward the most effective direction, and alter their strategies based on the changing nature of the market.


Overall, understanding and calculating PnL grants users the ability to make more informed, strategic, and efficient financial decisions, which leads to increased financial performance and a more positive overall financial position.


Relevance to Nonbank

Nonbank is a comprehensive financial management solution that integrates various financial services like banks, wallets, and exchanges, which provides a single platform for users to manage their finances.


Understanding PnL is important to users of Nonbank, as it allows them to effectively manage their digital assets across various platforms and make informed decisions based on their financial performance.


Nonbank aims to provide a smooth and user-friendly experience for consumers and businesses with regard to accessing and managing their finances. By combining different financial services into one platform, Nonbank attempts to simplify financial management, increase accessibility, and improve the overall experience of users by providing a comprehensive portfolio analysis, Shared Spaces, a wide range of assets (in the future) and many more.



Understanding Profit and Loss (PnL) is crucial to the field of finance and investment. It's used as a primary tool for individuals and businesses that want to assess their financial performance, make decisions based on information, and optimize their strategies.


Also, the understanding of PnL is crucial to accurate tax reporting and strategic planning. Ultimately, a comprehensive understanding of PnL enables individuals and businesses to navigate the complexities of the financial landscape with confidence and comprehension, which leads to increased financial performance and long-term growth.

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