Signature Verification with deep learning / transfer learning using Keras and KNIME

In the previous posts we applied traditional Machine Learning methods and Deep Learning  in Python and KNIME to detect credit card fraud, in this post we will see how to use a pretrained deep neural networks to classify images of offline signatures into genuine and forged signatures. A neural network like this could support experts to fight cheque fraud.  We will use the VGG16 network architecture pertained on ImageNet. The technique we are going to apply is called transfer learning and allows us to use a deep network even if we have only limited data, as in our case.  The idea for this post is based on the paper ‘Offline Signature Verification with Convolutional Neural Networks‘ by Gabe Alvarez, Blue Sheffer and Morgan Bryant. We combine native KNIME nodes for the data preparation and extend the workflow with Python code in some nodes using Keras for designing and the network and the transfer learning process.

We will use the same data source for our training set: The signature collection of the ICDAR 2011 Signature Verification Competition (SigComp2011) which contains offline and online signature samples. The offline dataset comprises PNG images, scanned at 400 dpi, RGB color. The data can be downloaded from

Data Preparation


The offline signatures images have all different size, so in the first step we resize them to have all the same size 150×150 and divide all pixel by 255 to scale our features in the [0,1] space.

With the List Files node we filter all images (pngs) in our training set folder.

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In the next step (Rule Node) we mark the first 123 images are forged or fraudulent and the remaining images are genuine signatures.

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In the following Metanode we read all images from the files using the image reader (table) node and then standardise the features and resize all images.

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In the next step we perform a 80/20 split into training and test data and apply a data augmentation step (using Keras ImageDataGenerator to create more training data) which finalise our data preparation. We will cover the data augmentation in one of the coming posts.

Deep Learning network

We will load the weights of a VGG16 network pertained on ImageNet classification tasks using Keras Applications and strip of the last layers and replace them with our new dense layers and then train and fine tune the parameters our data. Instead of training the complete network which would require a lot more data and training time we will use pretrained weights and leverage the previous experience of the network. We just learn the last layers on our classification task.

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Step 1: Load the pretrained network

We use the DL Python Network Creator Node and need to write a few line of Python code to load the network. We are using Keras, which will automatically download the weights.

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Step 2: Replace Top Layers and freeze weights

In the next step we modify the network, we add 3 Dense Layer with Dropouts and ReLu and a Sigmoid activation at the end and freeze the weights of the original VGG network and again we need to write a few line of Python code:

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Step 3: Train Top Layers

Then we train the new layers for 5 epochs with the Keras Network Learner Node:

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Step 4 and 5: Unfreeze and fine tune

We modify the resulting network and unfreeze the last layers of the VGG16 network to fine-tune the pre-learned weights (3 layers) and train the network for another 10 epochs.

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Apply Network and Test Results

In the last step we apply the network to the test data, convert the predicted probability into a class (p>0.5 -> Forged) and calculate the Confusion Matrix and AUC curve.

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Confusion Matrix:

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AUC Curve:

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The results look very impression, actually a bit to good. We are maybe overfitting the data, since the test data may contains signatures (genuine and forged) from the same reference authors (since there are only 10 reference authors in the complete training set). The author of the paper noted that the performance of their network is very good on signatures of persons whose signatures has been seen in the training phase but that on unseen data it’s only little bit better then a naive baseline. In one of the next posts we will to check the network performance on new unseen signatures and try to train and test the model also on the SigComp2009 data which have signatures of 100 authors and we will look into detail in the data augmentation and maybe we compare this network to some more other network architectures.

So long…






Fooling Around with KNIME cont’d: Deep Learning

In my previous post I wrote about my first experiences with KNIME and we implemented three classical supervised machine learning models to detect credit card fraud. In the meantime I found out that the newest version of KNIME (at this time 3.6) supports also the deep learning frameworks TensorFlow and Keras. So I thought lets revisit our deep learning model for the fraud detection and try to implement in KNIME using Keras without writing one line of Python code.

Install the required packages

The requirement is you have Python with TensorFlow and Keras (you can install it with pip or conda, if you using the anaconda distribution) on your machine. Then you need to install the Keras integration extensions in KNIME, you can follow the official tutorial on

Workflow in KNIME

The first part of the workflow is quite similar to the previous workflow

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We load the data, remove the time column, split the data in train, validation and test sets and normalise the features.

The configuration of the column filter node is quite straight forward, we specify the columns we want to include and exclude (no big surprise in the configuration).

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Design of the deep network

For building our very simple 3 layer network we need 3 different new nodes, the Keras Input-Layer-Node, the Dense-Layer-Node and the DropOut-Node:

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We start with the input layer and we have to specify the dimensionality of our input, in our case we have 29 features, we can also specify here the batch size.

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The next layer is a dense (fully connected) layer. We can specify we number of nodes, the activation function.

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After the dense layer we apply a drop-out with an dropout-rate of 20%, also the configuration is here quite straightforward.

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We add then another dense-layer with 50 node, another dropout and the final layer with one node and the sigmoid activation function (binary classification: fraud or non-fraud).

The last layer of the network, the training data and the validation set are input to the Keras-Network-Learner Node.


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We set the input, the target variable choose the loss function, optimisation method and number of epochs.

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We can specify a own loss function if we want or need to.

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We can select an early stop strategy as well:

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With the setting above the training will be stopped if the validation loss will no decrease more than 0.001 for at least 5 epochs.

During the training we can monitor the training process:

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The trained model and the test data are the input for the DL-Network-Executer-Node which will use the trained network to classify the test set.

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The results are plugged in a ROC-Curve-Node to asses the model quality.

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And here the complete workflow:

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It was very easy and fast to implement our previous model in KNIME without writing any line of code. Nevertheless the user still need to understand the concepts of  deep learning in order to build the network and understand the node configurations. I really liked the feature of the real time training monitor. In my view KNIME is a tool which can help to democratize data science within an organisation. Analyst who can not code in Python or R can have access to very good deep learning libraries for their data analytics without the burden to learn a new programming language, they can focus on understanding the underlying concepts of deep learning, understand their data and choosing the right model for the data and understand the drawbacks and limitations of their approach instead of spending hours learning programming in a new language. Of course you need to spent time to learn using KNIME, which is maybe for some people easier than learning programming.

I plan to spent some more time with KNIME in the future and I want to find out how to reuse parts of the workflow in new workflow (like the data preparation, which is almost exactly the same as in the previous example) and how to move model into production. I will report about it in same later posts.

So long…


Fooling around with KNIME

At the moment I am quite busy with preparing a two training course about ‘Programming and Quantitative Finance in Python’  and ‘Programming and Machine Learning in Python’ for internal trainings at my work, so I haven’t had much free time for my blog. But I spent the last two nights fooling around with KNIME, an open-source tool for data analytics / mining (Peter, I took inspiration from your blog to name today’s post) and I want to share my experience. In the beginning I was quite sceptical and my first thought was ‘I can write code faster then drag-n-drop a model’ (and I still believe it). But I wanted to give it a try and I migrated my logistic regression fraud detection sample from my previous blog posts into a graphical workflow.

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In the beginning it was bit frustrating since I didn’t know which node to use and where to find all the settings. But the interface and the node names are quite self-explaining so after exploring some examples and watching one or two youtube videos I was able build my first fraud detection model in KNIME.

To work with a classifier we need to transfer the numerical variable Class (1=Fraud, 0=NonFraud) into a string variable. This was not obvious for me and coming from Python and SkLearn it felt a bit wired and unnecessary. After fixing that, I split the data in a training and test set with the Partioning node. With a right-click on the node we can adjust the configuration and can change the it to the common 80-20 split.

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In the next step the data will be standardized (using a normalizer node). We can select which features / variable and how we want to scale them. We have plenty of settings to choose from, a nice feature is the online help (node description) on the right side of the UI, which describes the different parameter.

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I have capsuled the model fitting, prediction and scoring into a meta-node to make the workflow look cleaner and more understandable. With a double-click on the meta-node we can open the sub-workflow.

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I am fitting three different models (again encapsulated into meta-nodes) and combine the results (the AUC Score) into one table and write it and export it as a csv-file.

Lets have a detailed look into the logistic regression model meta-node.

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The first node is the so-called learner node. It fits the model on the training data. In the configuration we can select the input features, target column, the solver algorithm, and advanced settings like regularizations.

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To make predictions we use the predictor node. The inputs are the fitted model (square input) and the standardized test set. Into the normaliser (apply)  node, we feed the test set and the fitted normalizer (as far as I understand that is equivalent to use the transform method of a Scaler in Sklearn after fitting it before, please correct me if I am wrong). The prediction output will be used to calculate the AUC curve (in the configuration setting of the prediction node we have to add the predicted probabilities as an additional output, in the default settings is to output only the predicted class). We export the plot as an SVG file and the auc score (as a table with an extra column for the model name) is the output of our meta-node.

We can always investigate the output/result of one step, e.g. of the last node:

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Or the interactive plot of the AUC node:

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Or the model parameter output of the learner node:

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The workflow for the other two models is quite similar. With copy and pasting the Logistic Regression meta-node, it was just replacing the learner and predictor node and adjusting the configurations.

To execute the complete workflow we just need to press the run/play button in the menu.

There is still much to discover and explore and try. For example there are node for cross-validation and feature selection which I haven’t tried yet and so many other nodes (e.g plotting, descriptive statistics and the Python and R integration nodes). And I haven’t tried to move a model into production, but I read that it should not be that difficult with KNIME (they promote it as a platform to create data science applications). I spent just a couple hours with it, so please forgive me if I didn’t use the right name for some of the nodes, setting, menus or features in KNIME.

What is my impression after playing with it for a couple hours?

I still believe that writing code is the faster option for me, but I have to admit that I like it more and more. And its not really fair comparison (years of Python programming vs couple hours experimenting with a new tool).  Its a nice tool for prototyping models without writing a line of code. If you are not familiar with a ML library yet, its a good and fast way to build models. But here is no free lunch either, instead of learning a syntax and the architecture of a library you have to learn to use the UI and find all the settings.

It’s an open-source software and so far I haven’t encountered any limitation (e.g. other tools limit the numbers of rows you can use in a free version) but I’ve just scratched the surface.

In my opinion one big advantage is the visualization of the model. The model is easy to understand and can easily be handed over to some other developers or engineer. Everyone knows that working with other people’s code can be a sometimes a pain and having a visual workflow can eliminate that pain. But I believe the workflows can become messy as well. Its a tool which can be used by analysts and business user who want to explore and analyse their data, generate insights and use  the power of standard machine learning and data mining algorithm without being forced to learn programming first.

The first impression is surprisingly good and I will continue playing with it and I want to figure out how to run my own Python script in a node and maybe even more important how to move a model into production.

I will report about it in a later post.

So long…

From Logistic Regression in SciKit-Learn to Deep Learning with TensorFlow – A fraud detection case study – Part III

After a series of posts about exotic option pricing (Asian, Barriers and Bermudans) with TensorFlow and finding optimal hedging strategies with deep learning (using a LSTM network to learn a delta hedge) I will come back to our credit card fraud detection case. In the previous part we have build a logistic regression classifier in TensorFlow to detect fraudulent transactions. We will see that our logistic regression classifier is equivalent to a very simple neural network with exactly one layer with one node and sigmoid activation function. We will extend this simple network to to a deep neural network by adding more hidden layers. We will use the low level API of TensorFlow to build the networks. At the end of the post we will use Keras’s high level API to build a same network with just a few lines of code.

We will continue to use the same data apply the same transformation which we are using since the first part of this series.

As usual you can find the notebook on my GitHub repository.

Deep learning / neural networks in a nutshell

An artificial neural network (ANN) is collection of connected nodes. In the first layer of the network the input of our nodes are the input features. In following layers the output of previous nodes are the input to the nodes in the current layer. If we have more than 1 hidden layer we can call the network a deep neural network.


The picture is generated by a latex script written by Kjell Magne Fauske ( released under Creative common license. Thanks for that.

The output of the node is the composition of the dot or (scalar) product of a weights vector and the input vector and an activation function. Let be X the vector of input features and w_i the weights vector of the node i, then the output of this node is given by

output_i =  \phi(X^Tw_i+ b_i),

with an activation function \phi and bias b_i.

If a layer consists more of one node the layer can be represented as a matrix multiplication. Such a layer is often called linear or dense layer. Typical choices for activation functions are tanh, relu, sigmoid function.


As we can see from this formula a dense layer with one node and sigmoid function as activation is our logisitc regression model. The matrix product will be the logit and the output of the activation function will be the probability as in a logistic regression model.

Lets review the logistic regression example in a neural network setting, lets start a function which constructs the computational graph for a dense (linear) layer given a input, activation function and number of nodes.

def add_layer(X, n_features, n_nodes, activation=None):
    Build a dense layer with n_features-dimensional input X and n_nodes (output dimensional).


        X : 2D Input Tensor (n_samples, n_features)
        n_features = number of features in the tensor 
        n_nodes = number of nodes in layer (output dimension)
        activation = None or callable activation function 


        Operator which returns a 2D Tensor (n_samples, n_nodes)

    weights = tf.Variable(initial_value=tf.random_normal((n_features,n_nodes), 0, 0.1, seed=42), dtype=tf.float32)
    bias = tf.Variable(initial_value=tf.random_normal((1,n_nodes), 0, 0.1, seed=42), dtype=tf.float32)
    layer = tf.add(tf.matmul(X, weights), bias)
    if activation is None:
        return layer
        return activation(layer)

We wrapping our training and prediction functions in a class. The constructor of this class builds the computational graph in TensorFlow. The the function create_logit will build the computational graph to compute the logits (in the logisitc regression case: one layer with one node and the identity as activation function). We will override this function at a later point to add more layers to our network.

class model(object):
    def __init__(self, n_features, output_every_n_epochs=1, name='model'):
        self.input = tf.placeholder(tf.float32, shape=(None, n_features))
        self.true_values = tf.placeholder(tf.float32, shape=(None,1)) = tf.placeholder(tf.bool)
        self.logit = self.create_logit()
        self.loss = tf.reduce_mean(tf.nn.sigmoid_cross_entropy_with_logits(labels=self.true_values, 
        self.predicted_probs = tf.sigmoid(self.logit)
        self.output_every_n_epochs = output_every_n_epochs = name
        self.saver = tf.train.Saver()    

    def create_logit(self):
        return  add_layer(self.input, 30, 1)

    def evaluate_loss_and_probs(self, sess, X, y, training=False, output=False):
        loss, probs =[self.loss, self.predicted_probs], {self.input : X, 
                                                                   self.true_values : y.reshape(-1,1),
                                                          : training})
        y_hat = (probs > 0.5).reshape(-1)*1
        auc = roc_auc_score(y, probs)
        precision = precision_score(y, y_hat)
        recall = recall_score(y, y_hat)
        fp = np.sum((y!=y_hat) & (y==0)) 
        fpr = fp / (y==0).sum()
        if output:
            print('Loss: %.6f \t AUC %.6f \t Precision %.6f%% \t Recall %.6f%% \t FPR %.6f%%' % (loss, auc, precision*100, recall*100, fpr*100))
        return loss, probs, y_hat, auc, precision, recall

    def train(self, sess, X, y, n_epochs, batch_size, learning_rate):
        init = tf.global_variables_initializer()
        optimizer = tf.train.GradientDescentOptimizer(learning_rate)
        train = optimizer.minimize(self.loss)
        n_samples = X.shape[0]
        n_iter = int(np.ceil(n_samples/batch_size))
        indices = np.arange(n_samples)
        training_losses = []
        training_aucs = []
        for epoch in range(0,n_epochs):
            for i in range(n_iter):
                idx = indices[i*batch_size:(i+1)*batch_size]
                x_i = X[idx,:]
                y_i = y[idx].reshape(-1,1)
      , {self.input : x_i, 
                                 self.true_values : y_i,
                        : True})
            if (epoch % self.output_every_n_epochs)==0:
                print(epoch, 'th Epoch')
            loss_train_epoch, predict_train_epoch, y_hat, auc_train_epoch, _, _ = self.evaluate_loss_and_probs(sess, X, y, False, output)
        with plt.xkcd() as style:
            plt.plot(range(n_epochs), training_losses)
            plt.xlabel('# Epoch')
            plt.plot(range(n_epochs), training_aucs)
            plt.xlabel('# Epoch')
            plt.savefig('training_loss_auc_%s.png' %, dpi=300), "./%s/model.ckpt" %

    def restore(self, sess):
        self.saver.restore(sess, "./%s/model.ckpt" %

Apply this function to build our Logisitc Regression model

lr = model(30, 10, 'lr')
n_epochs = 11
batch_size = 100
with tf.Session() as sess:
    lr.train(sess, X_train, y_train, n_epochs, batch_size, 0.1)
    print('Validation set:')
    _, probs_lr, y_hat_lr, _, _, _ = lr.evaluate_loss_and_probs(sess, X_valid, y_valid, False, True)


0 th Epoch
Loss: 0.007944   AUC 0.980217    Precision 86.538462%    Recall 56.675063%   FPR 0.015388%
10 th Epoch
Loss: 0.004231   AUC 0.984984    Precision 87.591241%    Recall 60.453401%   FPR 0.014948%
Validation set:
Loss: 0.003721   AUC 0.977169    Precision 89.041096%    Recall 68.421053%   FPR 0.014068%


In the previous parts we have seen how we can learn the weights (parameter) of our logistic regression model. So we know how to train a network with one layer but how can we train a network with more than one layer?

The concept is called Backpropagation and is basically the application of the chain rule. In the first phase (feed forward phase) the the input is feed into the network through all layers and the loss is calculated. Then in the 2nd or backward phase, the weights are updated recursevly from the last layer to the first.

At the last layer the derivate of the loss is straight forward. For the calculation of the weights in the inner or hidden layers we need the previous calculated derivates.

With the calculated gradients we can apply again a gradient descent method to optimize our weights.

The power of TensorFlow or other deep learning libraries as PyTorch are again the auto gradients. We dont need to worry to calculate the gradients by ourself.

A detailed deriviation of the backpropagation algorithm with an example for a quadratic loss function can be found on wikipedia.

First deep network

Now its time for our first deep neural network. We will add 4 layers with 120, 60, 30 and 1 node.

class model2(model):

    def create_logit(self):
        layer1 = add_layer(self.input, 30, 120)
        layer2 = add_layer(layer1, 120, 60,)
        layer3 = add_layer(layer2, 60, 30)
        layer4 = add_layer(layer3, 30, 1)
        return layer4

dnn1 = model2(30, 10, 'model1')
n_epochs = 11
batch_size = 100
with tf.Session() as sess:
    dnn1.train(sess, X_train, y_train, n_epochs, batch_size, 0.1)
    print('Validation set')
    _, probs_dnn1, y_hat_dnn1, _, _, _ = dnn1.evaluate_loss_and_probs(sess, X_valid, y_valid, False, True)

The performance of this network is not really good. Actually is quite bad for the complexity of the model.
The AUC on the validation set is worse than the AUC from the logistic regression.



For low FPRs the logistic regession almost always outperforms the deep neural network (DNN). A FPR of 0.1 % means that in we will have 1 false positive in 1000 transactions. If you have millions of transactions even such a low fpr can affect and your customers. In very low FPRs (less than 0.0001) the DNN have a slightly higher true positive rate (TPR).

The problem is that we use the identity as activation function. The logit is still a linear function of the input.
If we want to capture non linear dependencies we have to add a non-linear activation function.
Let’s try the RELU.

Time for non-linearity

class model2b(model):

    def create_logit(self):
        layer1 = add_layer(self.input, 30, 120, tf.nn.relu)
        layer2 = add_layer(layer1, 120, 60, tf.nn.relu)
        layer3 = add_layer(layer2, 60, 30, tf.nn.relu)
        layer4 = add_layer(layer3, 30, 1)
        return layer4

dnn1b = model2b(30, 10, 'model1b')
n_epochs = 31
batch_size = 100
with tf.Session() as sess:
    dnn1b.train(sess, X_train, y_train, n_epochs, batch_size, 0.1)
    print('Validation set')
    _, probs_dnn1b, y_hat_dnn1b, _, _, _= dnn1b.evaluate_loss_and_probs(sess, X_valid, y_valid, False, True)

Another popular choice is tanh. We compare both activation functions with the logistic regression:



We see that both non linear models outperforms the logistic regression. For low FPRs the TPR is signifanct higher.
Assume we would accept a FPR of 0.01 %, then the Recall of our DNN is around 80% vs 50% for the logistic regression.
We can detect much more fraudulent transactions with the same rate of false alarms.

Using TensorFlow layers

Instead of building the computational graph our self (weights, bias tensor, etc) we can use TensorFlow Layers. The function tf.layers.dense build a linear or dense layer. We can specify the number of nodes, the input and the actication function (similar to our own function).

In the next layer we use the TensorFlow function and add on more layers.

class model3(model):

    def create_logit(self):
        layer1 = tf.layers.dense(self.input, 240, activation=tf.nn.tanh)
        layer2 = tf.layers.dense(layer1, 120, activation=tf.nn.tanh)
        layer3 = tf.layers.dense(layer2, 60, activation=tf.nn.tanh)
        layer4 = tf.layers.dense(layer3, 30, activation=tf.nn.tanh)
        layer5 = tf.layers.dense(layer4, 1)
        return layer5

dnn2 = model3(30, 10, 'model2')
n_epochs = 31
batch_size = 100
with tf.Session() as sess:
    dnn2.train(sess, X_train, y_train, n_epochs, batch_size, 0.1)
    print('Validation set')
    _, probs_dnn2, y_hat_dnn2, _, _, _= dnn2.evaluate_loss_and_probs(sess, X_valid, y_valid, False, True)
0 th Epoch
Loss: 0.003000   AUC 0.986239    Precision 82.428941%    Recall 80.352645%   FPR 0.029897%
10 th Epoch
Loss: 0.002036   AUC 0.992393    Precision 95.626822%    Recall 82.619647%   FPR 0.006595%
20 th Epoch
Loss: 0.001598   AUC 0.995232    Precision 93.989071%    Recall 86.649874%   FPR 0.009673%
30 th Epoch
Loss: 0.001273   AUC 0.996695    Precision 99.137931%    Recall 86.901763%   FPR 0.001319%
Validation set
Loss: 0.002425   AUC 0.980571    Precision 91.764706%    Recall 82.105263%   FPR 0.012309%

The model didn’t improve to the previous one. Maybe we are now overfitting. One way to prevent overfitting in DNN are dropouts. Dropouts deactive a proportion of nodes during training randomnly. So we prevent our neural network to memorize the training data. Lets add dropout layers to the previous model.

Lets use a dropout rate of 20%.

class model4(model):

    def create_logit(self):
        layer1 = tf.layers.dense(self.input, 120, activation=tf.nn.tanh)
        layer1 = tf.layers.dropout(layer1, 0.2,
        layer2 = tf.layers.dense(layer1, 60, activation=tf.nn.tanh)
        layer2 = tf.layers.dropout(layer2, 0.2,
        layer3 = tf.layers.dense(layer2, 30, activation=tf.nn.tanh)
        layer3 = tf.layers.dropout(layer3, 0.2,
        layer4 = tf.layers.dense(layer3, 1)
        return layer4

dnn3 = model4(30, 10, 'model3')
n_epochs = 31
batch_size = 100
with tf.Session() as sess:
    dnn3.train(sess, X_train, y_train, n_epochs, batch_size, 0.1)
    print('Validation set')
    _, probs_dnn3, y_hat_dnn3, _, _, _= dnn3.evaluate_loss_and_probs(sess, X_valid, y_valid, False, True)



We see that all our deep learning model outperform the LR model on the validation set. The difference in AUC doesn’t seems very big, but especially for very low FPR the recall is much higher. Where the model with the dropout (DNN3) performs slightly better than the others.

Lets go for model 3 (4 layers with dropout) and let see the AUC Score of the model on the test data.

with tf.Session() as sess:
    print('Test set')
    _, probs_dnn3_test, y_hat_dnn3_test, _, _, _= dnn3.evaluate_loss_and_probs(sess, X_test, y_test, False, True)
Test set
Loss: 0.001825   AUC 0.991294    Precision 97.619048%    Recall 83.673469%   FPR 0.003517%

This model performs very well on our test set. We have a high Recall with a very low FPR at a threshold of 50%.


The library Keras offers a very convinient API to TensorFlow (but it also supports other deep learning backends).

We can build the same model in just 6 lines of code. For many standard problems there are predefined loss functions, but we can also write our own loss functions in Keras.

For the model training and the prediction we only need one line of code each.

model = keras.Sequential()
model.add(keras.layers.Dense(120, input_shape=(30,), activation='tanh'))
model.add(keras.layers.Dense(60, activation='tanh'))
model.add(keras.layers.Dense(30, activation='tanh'))
model.add(keras.layers.Dense(1, activation='sigmoid'))

model.compile(optimizer='adam', loss='binary_crossentropy'), y_train, epochs=31, batch_size=100)

probs_keras = model.predict(X_test)


In this part we saw how to build and train a deep neural network with TensorFlow using the low level and mid level API and as an outlook we saw how easy the model development is in a high level API like Keras.

For this fraud detection problem a very simple deep network can outperform a classical machine learning algorithm like logistic regression if we looking into the low false positive rate (FPR) regions. If we can accept higher false positive rates all models perform similar.

To decide for a final model, one need to specify the costs of a FP (a genuine transaction which we maybe block or at least investigate) and FN (a fraudulent transaction which we miss), so we can balance the trade-off between Recall (detection power) and FPR.

Our fraud detection problem is as we know a imbalance class problem. We can maybe improve the quality of the logistic regression with use of over-/undersampling of the majority class. Or we can use try other ‘classical’ machine learning methods like random forests or boosting trees, which often outperform a logisitc regression.

Another interesting unsupervised deep learning method to detect anomalies in transactions are auto-encoders.

I think I will cover these topics in later posts. So stay tuned.

As usual you can find the notebook on my GitHub repo, so please download the notebook and play with the model parameter, e.g one could change numbers of epochs we train, apply adaptive learning rates or add more layer or change the numbers of nodes in each layer and play with dropouts to find better models and please share your ideas and results.

So long…

Option hedging with Long-Short-Term-Memory Recurrent Neural Networks Part I

In the last two posts we priced exotic derivates with TensorFlow in Python. We implemented Monte-Carlo-Simulations to price Asian Options, Barrier Options and Bermudan Options. In this post we use deep learning to learn a optimal hedging strategy for Call Options from market prices of the underlying asset. This approach is purely data-driven and ‘model free’ as it doesnt make any assumptions of the underlying stochastic process.

We follow and adopt the ideas presented in the paper ‘Deep Hedging’ ( by Hans Bühler, Lukas Gonon, Josef Teichmann, Ben Wood. The model can easily extended to incorporate transaction costs and trading limits.

In this part we will train a four layer Long-Short-Term-Memory (LSTM) Recurrent neural network (RNN) to learn a optimal hedging strategy given the individual risk aversion of the trader (we will minimize the Conditional Value at Risk also known as the Expected Shortfall of the hedging strategy) and derive an lower bound for a price which the risk-averse trader should charge if the trader follows the optimal hedging strategy.

For simplicty we use synthetic market prices of the underlying gernerated by a Black Scholes Process with a drift of zero (risk free interest is zero) and a volatility of 20%. We will train the network on one option on these simulated market values which matures in one month and has a moneyness of one (\frac{S}{K}=1).
This can easily adopted to more spohisticated models (see the reference paper for a Heston Model example) or even use real market data.

We will compare the effectivness of the hedging strategy and compare it to the delta hedging strategy using the delta from the Black Scholes model. We will evaluate the influence of the risk aversion of the trader on the hedging strategy and we will see how well the network can generalize the hedging strategy if we change the moneyness of the option, the drift (should have no effect in theory) and the volatility of the underlying process.

Start Spoiler This simple network is very good in pricing this particular option even on not observed market paths, but it will fail to generalize the strategy for options with different levels of moneyness or volatilities (but the Black Scholes strategy fails as well if we use a wrong volatility for pricing). End Spoiler

In the comming parts we will try to improve the network by changing the network architecture (e.g. simple MLP or Convolutional Networks) or using other and more features and try some approach to generate training data from market data or try transfer learning methods (since we dont have millions of training paths of one underlying) and include transaction costs.

Brief recap: Delta / Delta Hedge

The delta of an option is the sensitivity of the option price to a change of underlying stock’s price.

The idea of the delta hedging if to immunise a portfolio of option against changes in the market price of the underlying. If you have a long position of delta units of the underlying stock and you are one option short then your portfolio is not sensitive to changes of the market price (but its only a local approximation, if the price change the delta will change (2nd order greeks) and you need to adjust your position).

Black, Scholes and Merton used a (continuous time) self-financing delta hedge strategy to derive their famous pricing formula.


We are in Black Scholes setting. Current stock price is 100 and the volatility is 20%. The risk free interest rates is 0. We have a Call option with maturity in one month at a strike of 100. We adjust our hedge portfolio daily. Our training set will consists of 500,000 samples.

Our portfolio will consists of one short position of a call and \delta_{t_i} units of the underlying stock.

The PnL of our hedging / trading strategy is:

\sum_{I=0}^{n} S_{t_i} (\delta_{i-1} - \delta_{i}),

with $$\delta_{n}=\delta_{-1}=0.$ At time i we sell our previous position $\delta_{i-1}$ (cash inflow) and buy $\delta_{I}$ stocks (cash outflow). At the maturity $n$ we liquidate our position in stocks. The sum of all these transactions is our profit or loss.

The final value of our portfolio is given by the difference of the option payout and the PnL of our hedging strategy

\Pi = - max(S_T-K,0) + \sum_{I=0}^{n} S_{t_i} (\delta_{i-1} - \delta_{i}).

Under particular assumptions there exists a unique trading strategy and one fair price of the option that almost surely $\Pi + p_0 = 0$ (almost surely). One of the assumptions is continuous time trading.

But if we not hedge in continuous time, the quantity hold only in average.

In this example we sampled 10,000 paths from the Black Scholes process and applied the delta hedge strategy with different trading intervals (from once to twice a day).



We follow the idea of the paper Deep Hedging and try to find a hedging strategy which minimize the CVaR given the risk aversion $\alpha$

E[-\Pi | \Pi \le -VaR_{\alpha}(\Pi)].

We will develop two trading strategies (alpha=0.5 and 0.99) and test them versus the black and Scholes delta hedge strategy.

For our test set we generate 100,000 paths from the same underlying process (not in the training set). We will test the hedging strategy for 3 different options (strike K=100, 95 and 105). Additionally we test the hedging strategies on market paths from a process with a shifted drift and from a process with shifted volatility.


The code is as usual in my GitHub repository. Since the network needs approximately two and half hours for training, I also uploaded the pre-trained model. So one can skip the training step and directly restore the models.

We have a lot of helper function to generate the paths, calculate the Black Scholes prices and deltas and evaluate and compare the trading strategies, but the core class is our model.

<br />class RnnModel(object):
def __init__(self, time_steps, batch_size, features, nodes = [62,46,46,1], name='model'):
self.batch_size = batch_size
self.S_t_input = tf.placeholder(tf.float32, [time_steps, batch_size, features])
self.K = tf.placeholder(tf.float32, batch_size)
self.alpha = tf.placeholder(tf.float32)

S_T = self.S_t_input[-1,:,0]
dS = self.S_t_input[1:, :, 0] - self.S_t_input[0:-1, :, 0]
#dS = tf.reshape(dS, (time_steps, batch_size))

#Prepare S_t for the use in the RNN remove the last time step (at T the portfolio is zero)
S_t = tf.unstack(self.S_t_input[:-1, :,:], axis=0)

# Build the lstm
lstm = tf.contrib.rnn.MultiRNNCell([tf.contrib.rnn.LSTMCell(n) for n in nodes])

self.strategy, state = tf.nn.static_rnn(lstm, S_t, initial_state=lstm.zero_state(batch_size, tf.float32), dtype=tf.float32)

self.strategy = tf.reshape(self.strategy, (time_steps-1, batch_size))
self.option = tf.maximum(S_T-self.K, 0)

self.Hedging_PnL = - self.option + tf.reduce_sum(dS*self.strategy, axis=0)
self.Hedging_PnL_Paths = - self.option + dS*self.strategy
# Calculate the CVaR for a given confidence level alpha
# Take the 1-alpha largest losses (top 1-alpha negative PnLs) and calculate the mean
CVaR, idx = tf.nn.top_k(-self.Hedging_PnL, tf.cast((1-self.alpha)*batch_size, tf.int32))
CVaR = tf.reduce_mean(CVaR)
self.train = tf.train.AdamOptimizer().minimize(CVaR)
self.saver = tf.train.Saver()
self.modelname = name

def _execute_graph_batchwise(self, paths, strikes, riskaversion, sess, epochs=1, train_flag=False):
sample_size = paths.shape[1]
idx = np.arange(sample_size)
start =
for epoch in range(epochs):
# Save the hedging Pnl for each batch
pnls = []
strategies = []
if train_flag:
for i in range(int(sample_size/batch_size)):
indices = idx[i*batch_size : (i+1)*batch_size]
batch = paths[:,indices,:]
if train_flag:
_, pnl, strategy =[self.train, self.Hedging_PnL, self.strategy], {self.S_t_input: batch,
self.K : strikes[indices],
self.alpha: riskaversion})
pnl, strategy =[self.Hedging_PnL, self.strategy], {self.S_t_input: batch,
self.K : strikes[indices],
self.alpha: riskaversion})
#Calculate the option prive given the risk aversion level alpha
CVaR = np.mean(-np.sort(np.concatenate(pnls))[:int((1-riskaversion)*sample_size)])
if train_flag:
if epoch % 10 == 0:
print('Time elapsed:',
print('Epoch', epoch, 'CVaR', CVaR), r"/Users/matthiasgroncki/models/%s/model.ckpt" % self.modelname), r"/Users/matthiasgroncki/models/%s/model.ckpt" % self.modelname)
return CVaR, np.concatenate(pnls), np.concatenate(strategies,axis=1)

def training(self, paths, strikes, riskaversion, epochs, session, init=True):
if init:
self._execute_graph_batchwise(paths, strikes, riskaversion, session, epochs, train_flag=True)

def predict(self, paths, strikes, riskaversion, session):
return self._execute_graph_batchwise(paths, strikes, riskaversion,session, 1, train_flag=False)

def restore(self, session, checkpoint):
self.saver.restore(session, checkpoint)

The constructor creates the computational graph, we using the tf.contrib.rnn.MultiRNNCell() cell to stack the LSTM Cells tf.contrib.rnn.LSTMCell().

We can pass the timesteps, batch_size and number of nodes in each layer to the constructor.

At the moment the network is quite simple, we use in standard 4 Layers with 62, 46, 46, and 1 node. For a introduction in RNNs and LSTM I can recommend to read or but there are plenty of resources online.

Our class provides a function to train the model and to predict a trading strategy.


We compare the average PnL and the CVaR of the trading strategies assuming we can charge the Black Scholes price for the option.

For the first test set (strike 100, same drift, same vola) the results looks quite good.

** alpha = 0.5 **

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 22.16.30



A trader with such a risk aversion should charge is 0.25 above the Black Scholes price.

** alpha = 0.99 **

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 22.20.09



A trader with such a risk aversion should charge about 0.99 above the Black Scholes price.

We see with a higher risk aversion extreme losses will be less likely. And the trader will need a higher compensation to take the risk to sell the option. Both strategies have a lower CVaR and a higher average profit compared to the Black Scholes strategy while the trading strategy of the RNN has a higher volatility as the Black Scholes one.

But what happen if we need a strategy for an option with a different strike:

Alpha = 0.5 and Strike @ 95:

We see that the PnL of the RNN strategy is significantly worse than then BS trading strategy. If we compare the deltas we see that the model assume a strike at 100.

We see a similar picture for higher strikes and different alphas.

If we change the drift of the observe market value, both hedges still hold (as expected). But its a different picture when we change the volatility.

In that case both models fails similar bad:


Overall it is a very interesting application of deep learning to option pricing and hedging and I am very curious about the future developments in this field.

The RNN is able to learn a hedging strategy for a particular option without any assumption of the underlying stochastic process. The hedging strategy outperforms the Black Scholes delta hedge strategy but the neural network fails at generalising the strategy for options at different strike levels. To be fair we have to admit that our training set consisted only of one option at one strike level. In the next part we will try to improve the model with a more diverse training set and add more features to it.

But the next post will be most likely the 3rd part of the fraud detection series (From Logistic Regression to Deep Learning – A fraud detection case study Part I, Part II).

So long…

Pricing Bermudan Options in TensorFlow – Learning an optimal Early Exercise Strategy

In the previous post we used TensorFlow to price some exotic options like Asian and Barrier Options and used the automatic differentiation feature to calculate the greeks of the options.

Today we will see how to price a Bermudan option in TensorFlow with the Longstaff-Schwartz (a.k.a American Monte Carlo) algorithm. For simplicity we assume Bermudan equity call option without dividend payments in a Black-Scholes-Merton world.

The complete Jupyter notebook can be found on GitHub.

Let start with a brief recap of Bermudan options and the Longstaff-Schwartz pricing method. For detailed and more formalized description have a look into my previous posts about Bermudan Swaptions and the American Monte Carlo Simulation for CVA calculations or have a look into the book ‘Monte Carlo Methods in Financial-Engineering’ from Paul Glasserman.

A Bermudan option give the holder the right to exercise option not only at the maturity of the option but also earlier on pre specified dates. At each exercise date the holder of the option has to decide if it’s better to exercise the option now (exercise value) or to wait for a later exercise date (continuation value). He has to find a optimal exercise strategy (early exercise boundary of the option). He has to decide if the exercise value is higher than the continuation value of the option. There are some trivial cases:

1) If the option is not in the money its always better to wait and
2) if the option hasn’t been exercised before the last exercise date the Bermudan become an European option.

Therefore the option price have to be higher than the price of an European (because its included).

One approach to price the option is to use Monte-Carlo simulations, but the problem is calculation of the continuation value. On each simulated path we can easily calculate the exercise value of the option at each exercise date given the state of the path, but the continuation value is a conditional expectation given the current underlying price of the path. The naive approach is to calculate this expectation with a Monte-Carlo Simulation again but then we need to run a simulation for each exercise date on each path. These kind of nested simulations can become very slow.

Longstaff-Schwartz method

One solution is the Longstaff-Schwartz method, the basic idea is to approximate the continuation value through a linear regression model.

The pricing consists of two phases:

In the learning phase we go backward through the time starting with the last exercise date (it is trivial to price), then we go to the previous exercise date and we fit a linear model to predict the continuation values (the option value at time t+1 which we just calculated) given the state of the paths (usually a system of polynomials of the state). Then we use the prediction to decide if we exercise or not and update the value of the option at time t (either exercise or continuation value). And we continue these steps that until we reach the first exercise date.

After we learned the models to predict the continuation values we use these linear models to predict the continuation values in the pricing phase. We generate a new set of random paths and go forward through the time and at each exercise date we decide if the exercise depending on the exercise value and the predicted continuation value.

There are two ways to fit the linear model. One could solve the normal equation
or use gradient descent. I decided to go for the gradient descent, it give us the opportunity to exchange the linear model with more sophisticated models like a deep network.

I use three helper functions, the first function get_continuation_function creates the Tensorflow operators needed for training a linear model at an exercise date and a second function feature_matrix_from_state creates a feature matrix for the model from the paths values at a given time step. I use Chebyshev polynomials up to the degree 4 as features, as we can see below the fit could be better. Feel free to play with it and adjust the code.

The third helper function pricing_function create the computational graph for the pricing and it generates for each call date the needed linear model and the training operator with the helper functions and store it in a list of training_functions.

previous_exersies = 0
    npv = 0
    for i in range(number_call_dates-1):
        (input_x, input_y, train, w, b, y_hat) = get_continuation_function()
        training_functions.append((input_x, input_y, train, w, b, y_hat))
        X = feature_matrix_from_current_state(S_t[:, i])
        contValue = tf.add(tf.matmul(X, w),b)
        inMoney = tf.cast(tf.greater(E_t[:,i], 0.), tf.float32)
        exercise = tf.cast(tf.greater(E_t[:,i], contValue[:,0]), tf.float32) * inMoney 
        exercise = exercise * (1-previous_exersies)
        previous_exersies += exercise
        npv += exercise*E_t[:,i]
    # Last exercise date
    inMoney = tf.cast(tf.greater(E_t[:,-1], 0.), tf.float32)
    exercise =  inMoney * (1-previous_exersies)
    npv += exercise*E_t[:,-1]
    npv = tf.reduce_mean(npv)
    greeks = tf.gradients(npv, [S, r, sigma])

The npv operator is sum of the optimal exercise decisions. At each time we exercise if the exercise value is greater than the predicted continuation value and the option is in the money. We store the information about previous exercise decision since we can only exercise the option once.

In the actual pricing functionbermudanMC_tensorFlow we execute the graph to create the paths, the exercise values for the training path then will iterate backward through the training_functions and learn for each exercise date the linear model.

# Backward iteration to learn the continuation value approximation for each call date
        for i in range(n_excerises-1)[::-1]:
            (input_x, input_y, train, w, b, y_hat) = training_functions[i]
            y = exercise_values[:, i+1:i+2]
            X = paths[:, i]
            X = np.c_[X**1, 2*X**2-1, 4*X**3 - 3 * X]
            X = (X - np.mean(X, axis=0)) / np.std(X, axis=0)
            for epoch in range(80):
                _ =, {input_x:X[exercise_values[:,i]>0], 
            cont_value =, {input_x:X, 
            exercise_values[:, i:i+1] = np.maximum(exercise_values[:, i:i+1], cont_value)
            plt.scatter(paths[:,i], y)
            plt.scatter(paths[:,i], cont_value, color='red')
            plt.title('Continuation Value approx')
            plt.ylabel('NPV t_%i'%i)

We take the prices of the underlying at time i and calculate the Chebyshey polynomials and store it in the predictor matrix X. The option value at the previous time is our target value y. We normalise our features and train our linear model with a stochastic gradient descent over 80 epochs. We exclude all samples where the option is not in the money (no decision to make). After we got our prediction for the continuation value we update the value of option at time i to be the maximum of the exercise value and the predicted continuation value.

After we learned the weights for our model we can execute the npv and greek operator to calculate the npv and the derivatives of the npv.

Pricing Example

Assume the spot is at 100 the risk free interest rate is at 3% and the implied Black vol is 20%. Lets price a Bermudan Call with strike level at 120 with yearly exercise dates and maturity in 4 years.

The fit off our continuation value approximation on the training set.

The runtime is between 7-10 second for a Bermudan option with 4 exercise dates. We could speed it up, if we would use the normal equations instead of a gradient descent method.

So thats it for today. As usual is the complete source code as a notebook on GitHub for download. I think with TensorFlow its very easy to try other approximations methods, since we can make use of TensorFlows deep learning abilities. So please feel free to play with the source code and experiment with the feature matrix (other polynomials, or higher degrees) or try another model (maybe a deep network) to get a better fit of the continuation values. I will play a bit with it and come back to this in a later post and present some results of alternative approximation approaches.

So long.

TensorFlow meets Quantitative Finance: Pricing Exotic Options with Monte Carlo Simulations in TensorFlow

During writing my previous post about fraud detection with logistic regression with TensorFlow and gradient descent methods I had the idea to use TensorFlow for the pricing of path dependent exotic options. TensorFlow uses automatic (algorithmic) differentitation (AD) to calculate the gradients of the computational graph. So if we implement a closed pricing formula in TensorFlow we should get the greeks for ‘free’. With ‘free’ I mean without implementing a closed formula (if available) or without implementing a numerical method (like finite difference) to calculate the greeks. In Theory the automatic differentiation should be a bit times slower than a single pricing but the cost should be independent on the number of greeks we calculate.

Monte Carlo Simulations can benefit of AD a lot, when each pricing is computational costly (simulation) and we have many risk drivers, the calculation of greeks become very challenging. Imagine a interest rate derivate and we want to calculate the delta and gamma and mixed gammas for each pillar on the yield curve, if we use bump-and-revaluate to calculate the greeks we need many revaluations.

For simplicty we focus on equity options in a Black-Scholes model world since I want to focus on the numerical implementation in TensorFLow. Today we will look into the Monte-Carlo pricing of Plain Vanilla Options, Geometric Asian Options and Down-And-Out Barriers. All options in this post are Calls. For a introduction into TensorFlow look into my previous post on Logisitc Regression in TensorFlow.

You will need TensorFlow 1.8 to run the notebook (which is available on my Github)

Plain Vanilla Call

Lets start with a plain vanilla Call. Let me give a brief introduction into options for the non-quant readers, if you familiar with options skip this part and go directly to the implementation.

A call gives us the right to buy a unit of a underlying (e.g Stock) at preagreed price (strike) at a future time (option maturity), regardless of the actual price at that time.So the value the Call at option maturity is

C = \max(S_T-K,0) ,

with S_T the price of the underlying at option maturity T and strike K. Clearly we wouldn’t exercise the option if the actual price is below the strike, so its worthless (out of the money).

Its very easy to calculate the price of the option at maturity but we are more interested into the todays price before maturity.

Black, Scholes and Merton had a very great idea how to solve this problem (Nobel prize worth idea), and come up with a closed pricing formula.

We will first implement the closed formula and then implement the pricing with a Monte Carlo Simulation.

Not for all kind of options and models we have analytical formula to get the price. A very generic method to price options is the Monte-Carlo Simulation. The basic idea is to simulated many possible (random) evolutions (outcomes/realizations) of the underlying price (paths) and price the option of each of these paths and approximate the price with the average of the simulated option prices. Depending on the underlying stochastic process for the underyling in the model we need numerical approximations for the paths.

For a more detailed introduction into derivates have a look into the book ‘Options, Futures and Other Derivates’ by Prof. John C. Hull.

We lets assume the current stock price is 100, the strike is 110 and maturity is in 2 years from now. The current risk free interest rate is 3% and the implied market vol is 20%.

Let implement the Black Scholes pricing formula in Python

import numpy as np
import tensorflow as tf
import scipy.stats as stats
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
from mpl_toolkits.mplot3d import Axes3D
from matplotlib import cm

Plain Vanilla Call in TensorFlow

def blackScholes_py(S_0, strike, time_to_expiry, implied_vol, riskfree_rate):
    S = S_0
    K = strike
    dt = time_to_expiry
    sigma = implied_vol
    r = riskfree_rate
    Phi = stats.norm.cdf
    d_1 = (np.log(S_0 / K) + (r+sigma**2/2)*dt) / (sigma*np.sqrt(dt))
    d_2 = d_1 - sigma*np.sqrt(dt)
    return S*Phi(d_1) - K*np.exp(-r*dt)*Phi(d_2)

blackScholes_py(100., 110., 2., 0.2, 0.03)

The todays price is 9.73 and a pricing with the closed formula is super fast less then 200 mirco seconds.

Now lets implement the same pricing formula in TensorFLow. We use the concept of a function closure. The outer function constructs the static TensorFow graph, and the inner function (which we return) let us feed in our parameters into the graph and execute it and return the results.

def blackScholes_tf_pricer(enable_greeks = True):
    # Build the static computational graph
    S = tf.placeholder(tf.float32)
    K = tf.placeholder(tf.float32)
    dt = tf.placeholder(tf.float32)
    sigma = tf.placeholder(tf.float32)
    r = tf.placeholder(tf.float32)
    Phi = tf.distributions.Normal(0.,1.).cdf
    d_1 = (tf.log(S / K) + (r+sigma**2/2)*dt) / (sigma*tf.sqrt(dt))
    d_2 = d_1 - sigma*tf.sqrt(dt)
    npv =  S*Phi(d_1) - K*tf.exp(-r*dt)*Phi(d_2)
    target_calc = [npv]
    if enable_greeks:
        greeks = tf.gradients(npv, [S, sigma, r, K, dt])
        dS_2ndOrder = tf.gradients(greeks[0], [S, sigma, r, K, dt]) 
        # Calculate mixed 2nd order greeks for S (esp. gamma, vanna) and sigma (esp. volga)
        dsigma_2ndOrder = tf.gradients(greeks[1], [S, sigma, r, K, dt])
        dr_2ndOrder = tf.gradients(greeks[2], [S, sigma, r, K, dt]) 
        dK_2ndOrder = tf.gradients(greeks[3], [S, sigma, r, K, dt]) 
        dT_2ndOrder = tf.gradients(greeks[4], [S, sigma, r, K, dt])
        target_calc += [greeks, dS_2ndOrder, dsigma_2ndOrder, dr_2ndOrder, dK_2ndOrder, dT_2ndOrder]
    # Function to feed in the input and calculate the computational graph
    def execute_graph(S_0, strike, time_to_expiry, implied_vol, riskfree_rate):
        with tf.Session() as sess:
            res =, 
                               S: S_0,
                               K : strike,
                               r : riskfree_rate,
                               sigma: implied_vol,
                               dt: time_to_expiry})
        return res
    return execute_graph

tf_pricer = blackScholes_tf_pricer()
tf_pricer(100., 110., 2., 0.2, 0.03)

 [0.5066145, 56.411205, 81.843216, -0.37201464, 4.0482087],
 [0.014102802, 0.5310427, 2.8205605, -0.012820729, 0.068860546],
 [0.5310427, -1.2452297, -6.613867, 0.030063031, 13.941332],
 [2.8205605, -6.613866, 400.42563, -1.8201164, 46.5973],
 [-0.012820728, 0.030063028, -1.8201163, 0.011655207, -0.025798593],
 [0.06886053, 13.941331, 46.597298, -0.025798589, -0.62807804]]

We get the price and all first and 2nd order greeks. The code runs roughly 2.3 second on my laptop and roughly 270 ms (without greeks).

tf_pricer = blackScholes_tf_pricer(True)
%timeit tf_pricer(100., 110., 2., 0.2, 0.03)

2.32 s ± 304 ms per loop (mean ± std. dev. of 7 runs, 1 loop each)

tf_pricer = blackScholes_tf_pricer(False)
%timeit tf_pricer(100., 110., 2., 0.2, 0.03)

269 ms ± 13.4 ms per loop (mean ± std. dev. of 7 runs, 1 loop each)

We calculated 30 different greeks and one npv, so for a bump and revaluation we would need 31 times the time for one pricing. So that definetly a speed up but compare to the ‘pure’ python implementation is awefully slow. But its easy to implement and reduce maybe developing time.

Monte Carlo Simulation with TensorFlow

In the Black Scholes model the underlying price follows a geometric Brownian motion and we now the distribution of the prices in the futures given the current price, the risk free interest rate and the implied volatiliy of the underlying. So we are able to sample future prices directly.

We use a helper function create_tf_graph_for_simulate_paths to build the computational graph in TensorFlow which can calculate the future prices given the required inputs and normal distributed random numbers dw with zero mean and a standard deviation of one. The function will return the operator to calculate the random price paths and the placeholder we need to feed in our parameter.

We assume we need to calculate the prices at equidistant points of time. The column of the random matrix dw defines the number of time on each path and the rows the numbers of different paths.

For example a random matrix with the shape (1000, 10) would have 1000 path with the prices of the underlying at times T/10, 2T/10, … T.

def create_tf_graph_for_simulate_paths():
    S = tf.placeholder(tf.float32)
    K = tf.placeholder(tf.float32)
    dt = tf.placeholder(tf.float32)
    T = tf.placeholder(tf.float32)
    sigma = tf.placeholder(tf.float32)
    r = tf.placeholder(tf.float32)
    dw = tf.placeholder(tf.float32)
    S_T = S * tf.cumprod(tf.exp((r-sigma**2/2)*dt+sigma*tf.sqrt(dt)*dw), axis=1)
    return (S, K, dt, T, sigma, r, dw, S_T)

To test the function we create another function which use the function above to create the computational graph and returns another function which feed our parametrization into the graph and run it and return the simulated paths.

def make_path_simulator():
    (S,K, dt, T, sigma, r, dw, S_T) = create_tf_graph_for_simulate_paths()
    def paths(S_0, strike, time_to_expiry, implied_vol, riskfree_rate, seed, n_sims, obs):
        if seed != 0:
        stdnorm_random_variates = np.random.randn(n_sims, obs)
        with tf.Session() as sess:
            timedelta = time_to_expiry / stdnorm_random_variates.shape[1]
            res =, 
                               S: S_0,
                               K : strike,
                               r : riskfree_rate,
                               sigma: implied_vol,
                               dt : timedelta,
                               T: time_to_expiry,
                               dw : stdnorm_random_variates
            return res
    return paths

path_simulator = make_path_simulator()
paths = path_simulator(100, 110.,  2, 0.2, 0.03, 1312, 10, 400)
_= plt.plot(np.transpose(paths))
_ = plt.title('Simulated Path')
_ = plt.ylabel('Price')
_ = plt.xlabel('TimeStep') 


Now we going to price our plain vanilla call. We will use the same design pattern as above (function closure). The function will create the computational graph and returns a function that generates the random numbers, feed our parameter into the graph and run it.

Actually we just extend the previous function with the pricing of the call on the path payout = tf.maximum(S_T[:,-1] - K, 0) and we discount it and we add some extra lines to calculate the greeks.

def create_plain_vanilla_mc_tf_pricer(enable_greeks = True):
    (S,K, dt, T, sigma, r, dw, S_T) = create_tf_graph_for_simulate_paths()
    payout = tf.maximum(S_T[:,-1] - K, 0)
    npv = tf.exp(-r*T) * tf.reduce_mean(payout)
    target_calc = [npv]
    if enable_greeks:
        greeks = tf.gradients(npv, [S, sigma, r, K, T])
        target_calc += [greeks]
    def pricer(S_0, strike, time_to_expiry, implied_vol, riskfree_rate, seed, n_sims):
        if seed != 0:
        stdnorm_random_variates = np.random.randn(n_sims, 1)
        with tf.Session() as sess:
            timedelta = time_to_expiry / stdnorm_random_variates.shape[1]
            res =, 
                               S: S_0,
                               K : strike,
                               r : riskfree_rate,
                               sigma: implied_vol,
                               dt : timedelta,
                               T: time_to_expiry,
                               dw : stdnorm_random_variates
            return res
    return pricer

plain_vanilla_mc_tf_pricer = create_plain_vanilla_mc_tf_pricer()
plain_vanilla_mc_tf_pricer(100, 110, 2, 0.2, 0.03, 1312, 1000000)
[9.734369, [0.5059894, 56.38598, 81.72916, -0.37147698, -0.29203108]]
plain_vanilla_mc_tf_pricer(100, 110, 2, 0.2, 0.03, 1312, 1000000)

392 ms ± 20.5 ms per loop (mean ± std. dev. of 7 runs, 1 loop each)

plain_vanilla_mc_tf_pricer = create_plain_vanilla_mc_tf_pricer(False)
%timeit plain_vanilla_mc_tf_pricer(100, 110, 2, 0.2, 0.03, 1312, 1000000)

336 ms ± 24.6 ms per loop (mean ± std. dev. of 7 runs, 1 loop each)

The MC pricing is faster then the analytical solution in TensorFlow (ok we only have first order derivates) and the
extra costs for the greeks is neglect-able. I really wonder why a MC Simulation is faster than a closed formula.

Lets try some exotic (path dependent) options.

Exotic path dependent option

Asian Options

The fair value of a Asian option depends not only on the price of the underlying at option maturity but also on the values during the lifetime to predefined times. A Asian Call pay the difference between the average price and the strike or nothing.

A asian option which use the geometric mean of the underlying is also called Geometric Asian Option.

We follow the previous design we only make some extensions to the payoff and pricing method (need number of observation points).

def create_geometric_asian_mc_tf_pricer(enable_greeks = True):
    (S,K, dt, T, sigma, r, dw, S_T) = create_tf_graph_for_simulate_paths()
    A = tf.pow(tf.reduce_prod(S_T, axis=1),dt/T)
    payout = tf.maximum(A - K, 0)
    npv = tf.exp(-r*T) * tf.reduce_mean(payout)
    target_calc = [npv]
    if enable_greeks:
        greeks = tf.gradients(npv, [S, sigma, r, K, T])
        target_calc += [greeks]
    def pricer(S_0, strike, time_to_expiry, implied_vol, riskfree_rate, seed, n_sims, obs):
        if seed != 0:
        stdnorm_random_variates = np.random.randn(n_sims, obs)
        with tf.Session() as sess:
            timedelta = time_to_expiry / obs
            res =, 
                               S: S_0,
                               K : strike,
                               r : riskfree_rate,
                               sigma: implied_vol,
                               dt : timedelta,
                               T: time_to_expiry,
                               dw : stdnorm_random_variates
            return res
    return pricer

geom_asian_mc_tf_pricer = create_geometric_asian_mc_tf_pricer()
geom_asian_mc_tf_pricer(100, 110, 2, 0.2, 0.03, 1312, 100000, 8)
[4.196899, [0.3719058, 30.388206, 33.445602, -0.29993924, -89.84526]]

The pricing is a bit slower than the plain vanilla case about 470ms and 319ms without greeks. Again the extra cost is neglect-able.

Down and Out Options

Now lets try a down and out call. A down-and-out Call behaves as a normal Call but if the price of the underlying touch or fall below a certain level (the barrier B) at any time until the expiry the option, then it becomes worthless, even if its at expiry in the money.

A down and out call is cheaper than the plain vanilla case, since there is a risk that the option get knocked out before reaching the expiry. It can be used to reduce the hedging costs.

In the Black-Scholes model there is again a closed formula to calculate the price. See or .

We want to price this kind of option in TensorFlow with a Monte-Carlo Simulation and let TensorFLow calculate the path derivates with automatic differentitation.

Because of the nature of the product it quite difficult to calculate the npv and greeks in a Monte-Carlo Simulation. Obviously we have a bias in our price since we check if the barrier hold on discrete timepoints while the barrier has to hold in continous time. The closer we get to the Barrier the more off we will be from the analytical price and greeks. The MC price will tend to overestimate the value of the option. See the slides from Mike Giles about Smoking adjoints (automtic differentiation)

First we implement the analytical solutions in ‘pure’ Python (actually we rely heavly on numpy) and in TensorFLow.

def analytical_downOut_py(S_0, strike, time_to_expiry, implied_vol, riskfree_rate, barrier):
    S = S_0
    K = strike
    dt = time_to_expiry
    sigma = implied_vol
    r = riskfree_rate
    alpha = 0.5 - r/sigma**2
    B = barrier
    Phi = stats.norm.cdf
    d_1 = (np.log(S_0 / K) + (r+sigma**2/2)*dt) / (sigma*np.sqrt(dt))
    d_2 = d_1 - sigma*np.sqrt(dt)
    bs = S*Phi(d_1) - K*np.exp(-r*dt)*Phi(d_2)
    d_1a = (np.log(B**2 / (S*K)) + (r+sigma**2/2)*dt) / (sigma*np.sqrt(dt))
    d_2a = d_1a - sigma*np.sqrt(dt)
    reflection = (S/B)**(1-r/sigma**2) * ((B**2/S)*Phi(d_1a) - K*np.exp(-r*dt)*Phi(d_2a))
    return max(bs - reflection,0)

def analytical_downOut_tf_pricer(enable_greeks = True):
    S = tf.placeholder(tf.float32)
    K = tf.placeholder(tf.float32)
    dt = tf.placeholder(tf.float32)
    sigma = tf.placeholder(tf.float32)
    r = tf.placeholder(tf.float32)
    B = tf.placeholder(tf.float32)
    Phi = tf.distributions.Normal(0.,1.).cdf
    d_1 = (tf.log(S / K) + (r+sigma**2/2)*dt) / (sigma*tf.sqrt(dt))
    d_2 = d_1 - sigma*tf.sqrt(dt)
    bs_npv =  S*Phi(d_1) - K*tf.exp(-r*dt)*Phi(d_2)
    d_1a = (tf.log(B**2 / (S*K)) + (r+sigma**2/2)*dt) / (sigma*tf.sqrt(dt))
    d_2a = d_1a - sigma*tf.sqrt(dt)
    reflection = (S/B)**(1-r/sigma**2) * ((B**2/S)*Phi(d_1a) - K*tf.exp(-r*dt)*Phi(d_2a))
    npv = bs_npv - reflection
    target_calc = [npv]
    if enable_greeks:
        greeks = tf.gradients(npv, [S, sigma, r, K, dt, B])
        # Calculate mixed 2nd order greeks for S (esp. gamma, vanna) and sigma (esp. volga)
        dS_2ndOrder = tf.gradients(greeks[0], [S, sigma, r, K, dt, B]) 
        #dsigma_2ndOrder = tf.gradients(greeks[1], [S, sigma, r, K, dt, B]) 
        # Function to feed in the input and calculate the computational graph
        target_calc += [greeks, dS_2ndOrder]
    def price(S_0, strike, time_to_expiry, implied_vol, riskfree_rate, barrier):
        Returns the npv, delta, vega and gamma
        with tf.Session() as sess:
            res =, 
                               S: S_0,
                               K : strike,
                               r : riskfree_rate,
                               sigma: implied_vol,
                               dt: time_to_expiry,
                               B : barrier})
        if enable_greeks:
            return np.array([res[0], res[1][0], res[1][1], res[2][0]])
            return res
    return price

analytical_downOut_py(100., 110., 2., 0.2, 0.03, 80)

And again the TensorFlow implementation is super slow compared to the python one. 344 µs (pure Python) vs 1.63 s (TensorFlow with greeks).

We use the python implementation to visualise the npv of option dependent on the barrier.

def surface_plt(X,Y,Z, name='', angle=70):
    fig = plt.figure(figsize=(13,10))
    ax = fig.gca(projection='3d')
    surf = ax.plot_surface(X, Y, Z, cmap=cm.coolwarm,
                           linewidth=0, antialiased=False)
    fig.colorbar(surf, shrink=0.5, aspect=5)
    ax.set_title('Down-And-Out Option (%s vs Barrier)' % name)
    ax.view_init(35, angle)
    plt.savefig('npv_%s_barrier.png' % name, dpi=300)

T = np.arange(0.01, 2, 0.1)
S = np.arange(75, 110, 1)
V = np.arange(0.1, 0.5, 0.01)
B = np.arange(75, 110, 1)
X, Y = np.meshgrid(S, B)
vectorized_do_pricer = np.vectorize(lambda s,b : analytical_downOut_py(s, 110., 2, 0.2, 0.03, b))
Z = vectorized_do_pricer(X, Y)
surface_plt(X,Y,Z,'spot', 70)

X, Y = np.meshgrid(V, B)
vectorized_do_pricer = np.vectorize(lambda x,y : analytical_downOut_py(100, 110., 2, x, 0.03, y))
Z = vectorized_do_pricer(X, Y)
surface_plt(X,Y,Z,'vol', 120)

X, Y = np.meshgrid(T, B)
vectorized_do_pricer = np.vectorize(lambda x,y : analytical_downOut_py(100, 110., x, 0.2, 0.03, y))
Z = vectorized_do_pricer(X, Y)
surface_plt(X,Y,Z,'time', 120)

Now lets implement the Monte Carlo Pricing. First as pure python version.

def monte_carlo_down_out_py(S_0, strike, time_to_expiry, implied_vol, riskfree_rate, barrier, seed, n_sims, obs):
    if seed != 0:
    stdnorm_random_variates = np.random.randn(n_sims, obs)
    S = S_0
    K = strike
    dt = time_to_expiry / stdnorm_random_variates.shape[1]
    sigma = implied_vol
    r = riskfree_rate
    B = barrier
    # See Advanced Monte Carlo methods for barrier and related exotic options by Emmanuel Gobet
    B_shift = B*np.exp(0.5826*sigma*np.sqrt(dt))
    S_T = S * np.cumprod(np.exp((r-sigma**2/2)*dt+sigma*np.sqrt(dt)*stdnorm_random_variates), axis=1)
    non_touch = (np.min(S_T, axis=1) > B_shift)*1
    call_payout = np.maximum(S_T[:,-1] - K, 0)
    npv = np.mean(non_touch * call_payout)
    return np.exp(-time_to_expiry*r)*npv

monte_carlo_down_out_py(100., 110., 2., 0.2, 0.03, 80., 1312, 10000, 500)

Now now as TensorFlow version.

def create_downout_mc_tf_pricer(enable_greeks = True):
    (S,K, dt, T, sigma, r, dw, S_T) = create_tf_graph_for_simulate_paths()
    B = tf.placeholder(tf.float32)
    B_shift = B * tf.exp(0.5826*sigma*tf.sqrt(dt))
    non_touch = tf.cast(tf.reduce_all(S_T > B_shift, axis=1), tf.float32)
    payout = non_touch * tf.maximum(S_T[:,-1] - K, 0)
    npv = tf.exp(-r*T) * tf.reduce_mean(payout)
    target_calc = [npv]
    if enable_greeks:
        greeks = tf.gradients(npv, [S, sigma, r, K, T])
        target_calc += [greeks]
    def pricer(S_0, strike, time_to_expiry, implied_vol, riskfree_rate, barrier, seed, n_sims, obs):
        if seed != 0:
        stdnorm_random_variates = np.random.randn(n_sims, obs)
        with tf.Session() as sess:
            timedelta = time_to_expiry / obs
            res =, 
                               S: S_0,
                               K : strike,
                               r : riskfree_rate,
                               sigma: implied_vol,
                               dt : timedelta,
                               T: time_to_expiry,
                               B: barrier,
                               dw : stdnorm_random_variates
            return res
    return pricer

downout_mc_tf_pricer = create_downout_mc_tf_pricer()
downout_mc_tf_pricer(100., 110., 2., 0.2, 0.03, 80., 1312, 10000, 500)
[9.34386, [0.47031397, 54.249084, 75.3748, -0.34261367, -0.2803158]]

The pure Python MC needs 211 ms ± 8.95 ms per npv vs the 886 ms ± 23.4 ms per loop for the TensorFlow MC with 5 greeks. So its not that bad as the performance for the closed formula implementation suggests.

There are many things we could try now: implementing other options, try different models (processes), implement a discretisation scheme to solve a stochastic process numerically in TensorFlow, try to improve the Barrier option with more advanced Monte Carlo techniques (Brownian Bridge). But that’s it for now.

For me it was quite fun to implement the Monte Carlo Simulations and do some simple pricing in TensorFlow. For me it was very suprising and unexpected that the analytical implementations are so slow compared to pure Python. Therefore the Monte Carlo Simulation in TensorFlow seems quite fast. Maybe the bad performance for the closed formula pricings is due to my coding skills.

Nevertheless TensorFlow offers a easy to use auto grad (greeks) feature and the extra cost in a MC Simulation is neglect-able and the automatic differentiation is faster than DF when we need to calculate more than 4-6 greeks. And in some cases we can be with 5 greeks as fast as pure Python as seen the barrier sample. (approx 1 sec for a Tensorflow (npv and 5 greeks) vs 200 ms for Python (single npv). So i assume we can be faster compared to a pure Python implementation when we need to calculate many greeks (pillars on a yield curve or vol surface).

Maybe we can get even more performance out of it if we run it on GPUs. I have the idea to try Bermudan Options in TensorFlow and I also want to give PyTorch a try. Maybe I will pick it up in a later post.

The complete source code is also on GitHub.

So long…