Creating portfolio scenarios and conducting what-if analysis is an integral part of portfolio management. It involves assessing different components of the portfolio against certain prioritization criteria then applying various analysis techniques such as options analysis, risk analysis, SWOT analysis, and financial analysis. This allows portfolio managers to evaluate, compare, and select the most viable options for the portfolio.

For a comprehensive understanding, let’s dive into each of these analysis aspects in the lens of the Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP) examination, touching on crucial examples as we go along.

Table of Contents

1. Options Analysis:

As portfolio managers, the process of choosing the best decision among available options is a regular exercise. This is where options analysis comes in. It enables you to weigh these options and identify those that bring highest value with least risk.

For example, consider you are managing a portfolio of property investments. Options analysis would involve a detailed evaluation of different properties based on factors like location, appreciation potential, risk factors among others.

2. Risk Analysis:

In portfolio management, risks are always present. Risk analysis involves identifying potential threats to your portfolio’s performance, and evaluating the likelihood of their occurrence. Different tools and methodologies can be used for risk analysis, such as Risk Probability and Impact Assessment, Monte Carlo simulations, and Decision Tree Analysis.

For instance, if you are managing an investment portfolio, you may perform a risk analysis by examining potential economic downturns, changes in interest rates, or new governmental regulations, and the impact these may have on your portfolio performance.

3. SWOT Analysis:

SWOT analysis refers to the examination of a portfolio’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Strengths and weaknesses are classified as internal factors (within the control of the portfolio), while opportunities and threats are external factors (outside the control of the portfolio).

An example of SWOT analysis in the context of a product development portfolio might include strengths such as strong R&D capabilities, weaknesses such as a limited budget, opportunities such as emerging market trends, and threats such as new competitors.

4. Financial Analysis:

Financial analysis involves reviewing the portfolio’s financial factors, including cash flows, profitability, and return on investment (ROI).

Imagine a portfolio consisting of several business projects. A financial analysis may involve reviewing the profitability of each project, the cash flows generated, and the ROI. Based on this, decisions such as whether to continue funding a project or to pursue new ones can be made.


In conclusion, creating portfolio scenarios and performing what-if analysis is crucial for effective portfolio management. It demands consistent review and analysis to ensure that the portfolio aligns with the organization’s strategic objectives. To ace the PfMP exam, a clear understanding and application of options analysis, risk analysis, SWOT analysis, and financial analysis is key. Remember, the goal is not just to simply apply these techniques, but to use them to evaluate and select the most viable options for the portfolio.

Practice Test

True or False: A what-if analysis is a technique used to evaluate possible future events by considering alternative possible outcomes.

  • True
  • False

Answer: True

Explanation: By definition, a what-if analysis is a brainstorming technique used to determine how projected performance is affected by changes in the assumptions that those projections are based upon.

Multiple Choice: SWOT analysis stands for:

  • A) Synergy, Work, Optimization, Tactics
  • B) Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats
  • C) Strategy, Workforce, Optimization, Technology

Answer: B) Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

Explanation: A SWOT analysis is a strategic planning technique used to help organizations identify their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

True or False: Financial analysis is not necessary when creating portfolio scenarios.

  • True
  • False

Answer: False

Explanation: Financial analysis is a vital part of creating portfolio scenarios as it helps examine the feasibility and profitability of different options.

Multiple Choice: Which of the following techniques is NOT usually used when creating portfolio scenarios?

  • A) Risk Analysis
  • B) Net Present Value Analysis
  • C) Historical Analysis
  • D) Strategic Analysis

Answer: C) Historical Analysis

Explanation: While historical analysis can provide context, it’s not generally utilized in the creation of portfolio scenarios, which tends to emphasize on options, risk, SWOT, and financial performance.

Multiple Choice: The prioritization criteria for reviewing portfolio components can include:

  • A) Organizational Impact
  • B) Financial Viability
  • C) Alignment with strategic objectives
  • D) All of the above

Answer: D) All of the above

Explanation: Effective criteria for portfolio prioritization often includes factors like alignment with strategic objectives, financial viability, and potential organizational impacts.

True or False: Especially in portfolio management, the risk analysis process should ignore any identified threats.

  • True
  • False

Answer: False

Explanation: The risk analysis should certainly include any identified threats so that the organization can develop strategies to mitigate those risks.

Multiple select: The following are parts of a SWOT analysis:

  • A) Strengths
  • B) Weaknesses
  • C) Opportunities
  • D) Threats
  • E) Technology

Answer: A) Strengths , B) Weaknesses , C) Opportunities , D) Threats

Explanation: A SWOT analysis includes an examination of an organization’s internal Strengths and Weaknesses as well as external Opportunities and Threats.

True or False: Options analysis involves reviewing different scenarios and considering the potential impacts and outcomes of each.

  • True
  • False

Answer: True

Explanation: Options analysis is exactly as it sounds: analyzing different options/scenarios and assessing their potential impacts to provide a basis for decision-making.

Multiple Choice: What-if analysis is typically used to:

  • A) Evaluate worst-case scenarios
  • B) Examine the possibilities of future events
  • C) Both of the above

Answer: C) Both of the above

Explanation: What-if analysis is a useful tool for predicting the outcomes of various scenarios, including worst-case forecasts.

Multiple Select: Financial analysis can aid in understanding:

  • A) Potential profitability of projects
  • B) Return on investment (ROI)
  • C) Cash flow analysis
  • D) All of the above

Answer: D) All of the above

Explanation: Financial analysis can include a wide range of aspects, including potential profitability, ROI and cash flow analysis, each providing critical information for decision-making.

Interview Questions

What does a portfolio scenario or what-if analysis entail in portfolio management?

A what-if analysis in portfolio management is a strategy that examines the different possible outcomes or scenarios in an investment portfolio based on certain assumptions or changes in various financial or project variables.

What factors are reviewed under prioritization criteria in portfolio management?

Prioritization criteria in portfolio management typically includes strategic alignment, potential return on investment, risk profile, resource availability, and feasibility of completion.

What is the purpose of options analysis in portfolio scenario creation?

Options analysis evaluates potential investments’ potential risks and benefits, all viable alternatives, and returns expectations. The goal is to select the portfolio components that have the best balance of risk and return for the desired investment strategy.

How is risk analysis used in creating portfolio scenarios?

Risk analysis helps in assessing the uncertainties associated with different investments or projects within the portfolio. It allows the decision-makers to foresee possible outcomes, thus facilitating the choice of the most reliable and least risky options.

What elements are taken into consideration in SWOT analysis for portfolio scenarios?

SWOT analysis investigates the portfolio’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Strengths and weaknesses focus on the internal factors, while opportunities and threats examine the external environment.

Why is financial analysis vital in creating portfolio scenarios?

Financial analysis supports identifying the financial potential of each project or investment within the portfolio. It assesses profitability, cash flows, and financial health that ultimately help in making informed investment choices.

How does the process of evaluating and selecting viable options work in portfolio scenario creation?

The process begins by gathering and analyzing all the necessary data about each potential investment option. Through techniques such as options analysis, risk analysis, SWOT, and financial analysis, each option is evaluated based on how well it aligns with goals, strategy, and risk tolerance. The viable options are then selected for inclusion in the portfolio.

Can you elaborate on how strategic alignment is part of prioritization criteria in portfolio management?

Strategic alignment ensures that the portfolio’s components, whether projects or investments, support the organization’s overall strategy. Investments or projects that don’t align with the strategic goals may not be prioritized despite high potential returns or low risks.

What are the potential outcomes of a well-conducted portfolio scenario or what-if analysis?

Outcomes of a well-conducted portfolio scenario analysis can include a balanced portfolio that aligns with strategic objectives, optimized resource allocation, minimized risks, and a roadmap for handling various contingencies or changes in market conditions.

What is the relationship between the prioritization criteria and the portfolio scenario creation?

The prioritization criteria form the set of standards that dictates what essential factors should be evaluated and compared in the what-if analysis when creating portfolio scenarios. They essentially guide the selection of the most viable options for the portfolio.

How do portfolio managers use financial analysis to evaluate project or investment viability?

Portfolio managers use financial analysis to determine the profitability and financial soundness of each project or investment. This includes analysis of projected returns, cash flows, and other financial metrics such as payback periods or net present value. Based on these analyses, they can compare and prioritize options within the portfolio.

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