Research

Extreme Risks

December 2009

In this paper, we identify and rank 15 extreme risks that would have a high impact on global economic growth and asset returns if they occurred.  In our view, the events of the last two years have demonstrated that risk management cannot afford to stop at the 95th percentile and that ways need to be found to factor in very unlikely, but high-impact events.

Being aware of risk in the extremes before they happen can protect value if built into a plan of action that can be implemented as soon as the need arises. We recommend that this plan can be built by combining a qualitative understanding, quantitative modelling and a cost-benefit analysis of possible strategies. 

The extreme risks are ranked according to a subjective measure based on the impact, the risk and the degree of uncertainty in assessing the risk level; and in that order are:  

  • Depression
  • Hyperinflation
  • Excessive leverage
  • Currency crisis
  • Banking crisis
  • Sovereign default
  • Climate change
  • Political crisis
  • Insurance crisis
  • Protectionism
  • Disunity in Europe
  • End of capitalism
  • End of fiat money
  • War
  • Killer pandemic