We have reflected in our Outlook risks and opportunities that we believe are likely to occur. The following section focuses on future trends or events that may result in downside risk or upside potential from what we have anticipated in our Outlook.
Our aspirations are subject to various external and internal factors. In particular, timely and complete achievement of our strategic aspirations may be adversely impacted by the reduced revenue-generating capacities of some of our core businesses in the current challenging macro-economic and market environment, the ongoing headwinds posed by regulatory reforms and/or the effects on us of our legal and regulatory proceedings.
Macro-economic and market conditions
If growth prospects, the interest rate environment and competition in the financial services industry worsen compared to the expectation in our Outlook, this could adversely affect our business, results of operations or strategic plans.
Continued elevated levels of political uncertainty could have unpredictable consequences for the financial system and the greater economy and could contribute to an unwinding of aspects of European integration, potentially leading to declines in business levels, write-downs of assets and losses across our businesses. Our ability to protect ourselves against these risks is limited.
The overall macro-economic impact of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, which will depend on Europe’s political response to Brexit, is difficult to predict. In general, we expect a prolonged period of uncertainty regarding the UK’s future status with the EU. Therefore, weaker investment and thereby slower economic growth are expected to persist during the UK exit negotiations. As a consequence, we will closely monitor the developments and their impact on our business and operating model. This may potentially require taking impairments on assets.
We may be required to take impairments on our exposure to the sovereign debt of European and other countries if the sovereign debt crisis reignites. The credit default swaps into which we have entered to manage sovereign credit risk may not be available to offset these losses.
Adverse market conditions, unfavorable prices and volatility as well as cautious investor and client sentiment may in the future materially and adversely affect our revenues and profits as well as the timely and complete achievement of our strategic aspirations.
Our ability to achieve our adjusted cost target depends in part on whether we are able to execute our planned business disposals successfully and within the planned timeframes. Such planned disposals may, however, be delayed, or the scope of the assets being divested may change or their execution may be rendered impracticable due to market conditions, negotiations with interested parties and discussions with local regulators.
The direct costs and related business impacts described in this section and in our Outlook, should they be significantly greater than we currently expect, would impact the “available distributable items” (ADI) calculation for Deutsche Bank AG, which forms the basis for payment capacity on our Additional Tier 1 (AT1) securities. If Deutsche Bank AG’s stand-alone results in accordance with German accounting rules according to the German Commercial Code (Handelsgesetzbuch, HGB) do not provide sufficient ADI, this would impact our ability to make distributions on our AT1 instruments. This could lead to higher funding costs for us and adversely affect market perceptions of us, with potential adverse effects on our results of operations and financial condition. Such impacts may also put increasing pressure on our capital, liquidity and other regulatory ratios. Also, if we do not report sufficient levels of distributable profits under our stand-alone financial statements in accordance with HGB, this would impact our ability to pay dividends.
A downgrade in our credit rating could affect our funding costs and business activities, although we are unable to predict whether this would be the case or the extent of any such effect.
Regulatory reforms and supervisory reviews
The regulatory reforms enacted and proposed in response to weaknesses in the financial sector together with the increased regulatory scrutiny and discretion will impose material costs on us, create significant uncertainty for us and may adversely affect our business plans as well as our ability to execute our strategic plans. Those changes that require us to maintain increased capital may significantly affect our business model, financial condition and results of operation as well as the competitive environment generally. Other regulatory reforms, such as bank levies, may also materially increase our forecasted operating costs. Regulatory reforms in respect of resolvability or resolution measures may also impact our shareholders and creditors.
Regulators can also impose capital surcharges, either as a result of specific supervisory exams or, as result of the annual Supervisory Review and Evaluation Process (SREP), to reflect the additional risks posed by deficiencies in our control environment. In extreme cases, they can even suspend our permission to operate within their jurisdictions. Furthermore, implementing enhanced controls may result in higher regulatory compliance costs that could offset or exceed efficiency gains. Regulators may disagree with our interpretation of specific regulatory requirements when interpretative matters are discussed as part of our ongoing regulatory dialogue or in the context of supervisory exams. Changes in rule interpretations can have a material impact on the treatment of positions for Pillar 1 regulatory purposes. Similarly, the evolving interpretations of the European Banking Authority (EBA) on the Capital Requirements Regulation can also negatively impact our regulatory capital, leverage or liquidity ratios. For example, on October 6, 2017, the EBA published new interpretative guidance on the treatment of guaranteed fund products which, if determined to be applicable to the full range of guaranteed funds and guaranteed fund saving schemes including the main government sponsored private pension scheme in Germany, could have a material impact on our regulatory capital and leverage ratio.
Legal, tax and regulatory proceedings
We are subject to a number of legal proceedings, tax examinations and regulatory investigations whose outcome is difficult to estimate and which may substantially and adversely affect our planned results of operations, financial condition and reputation. If these matters are resolved on terms that are more adverse to us than we expect, in terms of their costs or necessary changes to our businesses, or if related negative perceptions concerning our business and prospects and related business impacts increase, we may not be able to achieve our strategic objectives or we may be required to change them.
Risk management policies, procedures and methods as well as operational risks
Although we have devoted significant resources to develop our risk management policies, procedures and methods, including with respect to market, credit, liquidity and operational risk, they may not be fully effective in mitigating our risk exposures in all economic market environments or against all types of risk, including risks that we fail to identify or anticipate.
If we are unable to implement our strategy successfully, which is also subject to the previously mentioned factors, we may be unable to achieve our financial objectives, or we may incur losses or low profitability or erosion of our capital base, and our financial condition, results of operations and share price may be materially and adversely affected.
Digitization offers new competitors such as FinTechs' market entry opportunities and we expect our businesses to have an increased need for investment in digital product and process resources to mitigate the risk of a potential loss of market share. In addition, with increasing levels of digitization, cyber attacks could lead to data loss or technology failures, security breaches, unauthorized access, loss or destruction of data or unavailability of services. Any of these events could involve us in litigation or cause us to suffer financial loss, disruption of our business activities, liability to our customers, government intervention or damage to our reputation.
Macro-economic and market conditions
Should economic conditions, such as GDP growth, the interest rate environment and competitive conditions in the financial services industry improve beyond forecasted levels, this could lead to increasing revenues that may only be partially offset by additional costs, thus improving both income before income taxes and cost-income ratio directly and subsequently improving regulatory measures such as CET 1 and leverage ratio.
If market conditions, price levels, volatility and investor sentiment develop better than expected, this may also positively impact our revenues and profits. Similarly, if we experience higher levels of customer demand and market share than anticipated, this may positively affect our results of operations.
Our strategy seeks to enable us to become a simpler and more efficient, less risky, better capitalized and better run organization. The implementation of our strategy may create further opportunities if implemented to a greater extent or under more favorable conditions than anticipated. If businesses and processes improve beyond our planning assumptions and cost efficiencies can be realized sooner or to a greater extent than forecasted, this could also positively impact our results of operations.
The UK’s exit from the European Union may become a source of competitive advantage for the bank because it will leave Deutsche Bank as one of a handful of globally-relevant EU-based banks offering a full suite of corporate and investment banking products.
Deutsche Bank may be able to benefit from this unique positioning and for this to be a clear competitive differentiator with our clients. Moreover Deutsche Bank’s pre-existing EU based infrastructure may make our clients’ Brexit transition easier than with some of our competitors.
Regulatory change can also be an opportunity, driving incremental revenue streams and potentially altering the competitive landscape in Deutsche Bank’s favor.
MiFID II, for example, could benefit Deutsche Bank given our high-quality, waterfront research coverage. By comparison, some of our competitors may have to scale back as a result of MiFID II. Some competitors may reduce their footprint or even withdraw from the market. This creates an opportunity to gain market share given Deutsche Bank’s commitment to providing our clients with broad-based but deep product and service coverage.
Digitization offers our divisions an opportunity for significant efficiency gains. By investing in digital applications such as digital client self-boarding, front-to-back processes can be automated and the productivity of employees with customer contact can be increased. Digitization will also result in more flexible ways for our customers to take advantage of services and products in the location and time chosen by them. In combination with our high level of expertise in data security, these factors can help us to strengthen our existing market position and gain additional market share.