Creating Unicorns

You may have heard of the term “data scientist unicorn.” The Harvard Business Review had an article that describes them as “a hybrid of data hacker, analyst, communicator, and trusted adviser.” The article goes onto say that “The combination is extremely powerful—and rare.”

The CAS Board has just adopted a new Envisioned Future, and you will see that we want to create unicorns. It says:

CAS members are sought after globally for their insights and ability to apply analytics to solve insurance and risk management problems.

We want our members to have a powerful combination of skills in three areas:

  1. Analytics – the kind you need to tackle the important insurance problems in this data-rich world.
  2. Problem solving, which means having strong strategic thinking and communication skills
  3. Domain knowledge, which in our case is property and casualty insurance and risk management

And if you imagine these three as a Venn diagram, then the person in the middle of this Venn diagram, with all three skillsets – that’s the unicorn.

When you read the Envisioned Future, it’s easy to see it as benign. But I want to make clear that it isn’t. We have chosen a very specific strategic direction. We don’t want to produce actuaries who are just highly analytical, like a PhD in statistics. We don’t want to produce actuaries who are just strong at solving business problems, like a management consultant. And we don’t want to produce actuaries who are just experts on P&C insurance. We want our members to have all three skillsets. We have chosen very deliberately, to create unicorns.

This leads to two questions:

Firstly, why did we make this decision? Because these are the most sought after people in this space. Because these people – who have skillsets in all three areas, instead of specializing in one area – these are the type of people who become leaders.

Secondly, how do you create a unicorn?  That’s something that the Board and Executive Council are working on now. We’re creating a Three-Year Plan, which consists of four big-ticket problems to solve over the next three years, that will propel us towards our Envisioned Future:

  1. Sought After: How do we give our members the skills to make them sought after?
  2. Pipeline: How do we attract high potential, talented people into our profession?
  3. Operating Model: How do we make sure we have an operating model that can execute successfully on our Three-Year plan?
  4. International: How do we make our members sought after across the globe?

What does this mean for current CAS members?  We want you to continue to be sought after, long after you get your credentials, so you can have long and fulfilling careers, and our Three-Year Plan will certainly include a focus on that. If you’re hiring, then we want future members to have this unique combination of skills that you’re looking for.  And as a member of our society, you will benefit from the continued strength of the brand and what it means to be a member of the CAS.

As we continue with the development of our new Strategic Plan, we welcome your input. What do you think are the skill sets that will make our members sought after and help us achieve our Envisioned Future? What does a unicorn look like to you, and how can the CAS create them? Please leave your comments below or feel free to contact me directly.


About Jessica Leong

Jessica Leong, FCAS, is Immediate Past Chair of the CAS Board of Directors.

2 Responses to Creating Unicorns

  1. avatar Nikhil Kamma says:


    Extremely grateful and happy to come across this article.

    I’m a computer science engineer and an MBA and working in the insurance industry. I’m interested in developing skills exactly in this direction and think it’s also the next logical/organic step for me. Could you please advise on how I can begin to develop such skills. I don’t have any actuarial certifications and was contemplating on taking the exams. But it would be great to know how I should customize my approach in order to develop such skills.

    Thanks a lot for the blog, this really gives me a strong sense of direction !

  2. avatar Jessica Leong says:

    Nikhil – thanks for the comment! Obviously I would recommend you take a look at the credentials that we offer at the CAS. In terms of customizing your approach, we have our two actuarial credentials of ACAS (associate of the casualty actuarial society) and FCAS (fellow of the casualty actuarial society). We also have credentials under our CAS Institute that focus on specific specializations such as data science and catastrophe modeling ( Hope that helps!

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