Why Should the CAS Exist?

Casualty Actuarial Society LogoAt a CAS Board meeting last August, Board Member Jessica Leong posed a strategic question: “Why does the CAS exist?” Leong told the Board about author Simon Sinek’s TED Talk inspired by his book, “Start with Why.” Sinek observes how successful organizations communicate and sell themselves and believes that many organizations communicate in questions in the following order: What? How? Why? Sinek says that such order of these questions is the exact opposite of how the most successful organizations communicate:  Why? How? What? The CAS answers these questions through: the Preamble to CAS Mission Statement (what), the Definition of a Casualty Actuary (how), the CAS Vision Statement, and the body of the CAS Mission Statement (why).

The takeaway from Sinek’s Ted Talk, however, is that the why should be more explicit and attempt to best express the beliefs and inspirations for the CAS in society — why does the CAS do what it does? For example, why do we believe that it is better for actuaries to be qualified in the casualty field (non-life, property and casualty or general insurance) by the CAS rather than an actuarial organization that broadly qualifies actuaries across all areas of specialization?

Our why might be stated as “To provide society with the quantitative analyses needed to manage the financial consequences resulting from property and casualty risks.”

Said in terms of what we believe, it may be stated as, “We believe that CAS actuaries can provide society with the quantitative analyses needed to manage the uncertain financial consequences from property and casualty risks.”

This sounds very consistent with the mission, vision and purposes of the CAS, but the question remains: Why should there be a separate actuarial organization for just property and casualty risks? Sinek describes finding your why in terms of beliefs — your community is defined by shared beliefs, and those who share your beliefs are drawn to you and your community. Over 100 years ago, the actuarial community was intently focused on mortality risk. The quantitative analysis of mortality risks is quite distinct from the quantitative analysis of property and casualty risks. Additionally, the life insurance industry and the property and casualty insurance industry have focused on very different risks throughout their development. Therefore, having a separate actuarial organization that focuses on property and casualty risks would seem to be a very natural community. There are parallels in the specialization of other professions, but the closest example of such specializations in the insurance field is with underwriters. The underwriting profession in the U.S. has a long history of professional training and credentialing from two separate organizations. Each of those organizations has flourished in their specialized areas of insurance underwriting and has expanded their training to other related types of professionals. The common driver has been the needs of the insurance industry and the community of professionals that defines itself based on those needs.

So the suggestion to merge actuarial organizations or that one actuarial organization would provide a better way to meet the needs of the actuarial profession seems to ignore the need for specialization. More importantly, a professional community defines itself based on shared beliefs and the common problems and solutions that those professionals are most interested in. The CAS has long established itself as meeting the needs of the insurance industry that has also specialized in property and casualty risks, either by choice or by laws and regulations that apply to those insurance companies.

The CAS is the third largest actuarial organization in the world that provides its own actuarial credentials by examination. So the idea that specialization can be better served by a property and casualty section within one actuarial organization not only ignores the needs of the industry that CAS members have served for many years, but also ignores the incredibly strong, vibrant and durable community of actuaries that the CAS has become.

So why should the CAS exist? Because the CAS is a community defined by the shared beliefs of actuaries whose specialty is solving actuarial problems in property and casualty risks, and those actuaries who share our beliefs are drawn to the CAS and our community. Those shared beliefs are what define our community within the actuarial profession and thereby define why the CAS should exist.

Please share your reactions, ideas and suggestions by leaving a comment below.

This blog post is a shortened version of the President’s Message, printed in the May/June Issue of the Actuarial Review. 


About Bob Miccolis

Bob Miccolis is the Immediate Past President of the Casualty Actuarial Society and chair of the CAS Board of Directors. He also serves as chair of the CAS Institute Leadership Advisory Council.

3 Responses to Why Should the CAS Exist?

  1. avatar Stan Khury says:

    Well said. It is hard to improve on the Miccolis presentation. All the same, let me point out a couple of prominent strands of this discussion:

    1. The CAS is a creature of need, when WC appeared on the scene over a 100 years ago, the need to deal withe actuarial elements spawned the CAS. And ever since that time the CAS has been where answers are provided whenever a newly emergent need has appeared on the scene. The future is bright for the CAS because of this life force that will continuously renew the CAS. The SOA on the other hand has been a creature of the life contingency paradigm. In a sense it is thus hide bound and will be ill suited to embrace the CAS M.O.

    2. The CAS is largely member driven. The CAS also has the remarkable benefit of a professional staff that interacts extremely well with a very active membership. The largest signature of this successful synergy is a 30% volunteer participation rate, that in turn drives a lot of activity on many fronts. The SOA, on the other hand is a top down organization that does not thrive on the interest of huge cadres of volunteers. Recent history provides excellent examples of just how imperfect that model is (FEM and GA). The two cultures are very different.

    There are many other points but these two are on top of my list.

  2. avatar Barry Franklin says:

    The CAS serves a vital need in risk areas for which its members provide deep expertise and critical advice. It ultimately accomplishes this through its members of course, but it is able to do so because the CAS focuses its energies on CAS members and the principals they serve. To its credit, the CAS has resisted the sirens song of organizational empire building and has instead invested volunteer time, member dues and other financial resources in research, education and brand building efforts designed for the benefit of members. Somewhat paradoxically, the CAS exists and prospers as an organization precisely because it has not pursued hegemonic organizational interests. The CAS should cease to exist as a separate organization when staff and volunteer leadership places greater importance on the fortunes of the organization than the long term success of its members.

    As I think about the reasons for the existence of the CAS, comparing the Mission Statements of the CAS and SOA is revealing:
    SOA: The Society of Actuaries (SOA) is the largest professional organization dedicated to serving 24,000 actuarial members and the public in the United States, Canada and worldwide. The SOA’s vision is for actuaries to be the leading professionals in the measurement and management of risk.
    CAS: The purposes of the Casualty Actuarial Society are:
    • to advance the body of knowledge of actuarial science applied to general insurance, including property, casualty and similar risk exposures;
    • to expand the application of actuarial science to enterprise risks and systemic risks;
    • to establish and maintain standards of qualification for membership;
    • to promote and maintain high standards of conduct and competence;
    • to increase the awareness of actuarial science;
    • and, to contribute to the well being of society as a whole.

    Looking at these mission statements, I might prefer to be an employee of the SOA if my ambition was to work for a large professional organization; however, I would much prefer being a member of the CAS if my ambition was to learn, grow and develop in my professional career as a casualty actuary.

  3. avatar Dan Murphy says:

    Thanks, Jessica and Bob, for focusing this discussion around Sinek’s Ted Talk. What do folks think about this rearrangement of Bob’s points, starting with a different “Why” based on the last point of our Mission Statement?


    The development of actuarial skills that manage the financial consequences of property and casualty risks is critical to the advancement of socio-economic health and evolution. The development of such highly specialized skills does not lend itself to standard educational approaches.


    To address that need, the Casualty Actuarial Society was formed as a professional organization to advance the body of actuarial science applied to property/casualty risks and dependent enterprises.

    WHAT WE DO (more from the Mission Statement)

    The means by which the Casualty Actuarial Society promotes actuarial development include:
    * Focused education and testing for membership qualification;
    * Researching new skills and competencies as needs arise and evolve;
    * Sharing knowledge and beliefs via publications and organized interactions;
    * Promoting and maintaining high standards of conduct and competence;
    * Increasing awareness of actuarial science;
    * Contributing to the well being of society as a whole.

    Respectfully submitted,
    Dan Murphy

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