Trevor Blog on Bruce Hirst
No matter how you add it up — says Bruce Hirst, Deputy Chief Corporate Services and CFO at the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), and former Capital Chapter president — fmi*igf is a key cog in the financial management community.
“fmi*igf is a great organization, filled with dedicated officers and volunteers,” said Bruce. “There is no doubt that the Capital Chapter has been a de facto arm of the Comptroller General and helped train and professionalize the finance officer cadre of the public service.
“We would not have the quality of people we have in our organizations if it were not for fmi*igf. If fmi*igf did not exist — we would have to invent it, it is that important to our community.”
And Bruce knows of what he speaks. He has been an fmi*igf member since joining the public service in the early 1990s and served as Capital Chapter president from 1995 to 1996. Additionally, Bruce has been on the organizing committees of numerous PD Weeks and played a lead role in PSMWs in Vancouver, Victoria, Halifax, Moncton and Charlottetown.
“Great experiences,” Bruce said of his PSMW memories. “I met a host of great provincial and municipal folks – people who really make (up) the backbone of fmi*igf.”
The Leamington-born, Belle River-raised Bruce enjoyed an exceptional military career before joining the public service.
“I joined the Navy at 17 and for the next 26 years spent time on ships on both coasts, Victoria and Halifax, as well as other Armed Forces bases: Edmonton, Borden, Toronto and Ottawa,” said Bruce. “In Ottawa, one of my jobs was special advisor to the Vice Chief of Defence and my last job was in Costing Services in the CFO branch. I retired as a Commander and went to the Office of the Comptroller General.”
Being a part of fmi*igf has been key for Bruce throughout his professional life.
“Coming from the military, although I had experience, fmi*igf was a great way to make connections and learn about the job of a finance officer in the government,” he said. “I found that the fmi*igf Capital Chapter and national (members) are like a family with a great deal of drive and experience that one can draw on to get advice or help push projects forward. There are still people today who I met (through) fmi*igf that I rely on and feel that I can talk openly and honestly about ideas or problems.”
Prior to his appointment to CSE in 2011, Bruce was Executive Vice-President and CFO for London Health Sciences and St. Joseph’s Health Care, one of Ontario’s largest health care complexes.
Before entering the healthcare industry, Bruce had an extensive career in the federal public service, where he held several senior level positions. In 2008, he was appointed the Assistant Deputy Minister and CFO of the department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. From 2002-2008, Bruce was Director General Finance at Natural Resources Canada. From 1992- 2002, Bruce held positions of increasing responsibility in the Office of the Comptroller General and the Treasury Board of Canada. These positions included Director of Financial Authorities and Director General of Financial Management Policies.
Bruce relishes his current job with CSE.
“The agency is tasked with gathering cyber intelligence and protecting the government and critical infrastructure against cyberattacks. As in any such position you have to look ahead one, five, ten years and see what the challenges will be and how you can prepare your department to meet these challenges,” he said. “On a day-to-day basis, it is somewhat like being a coach of a football team: all players have to be in shape (i.e. pick good people and make sure they are knowledgeable and properly trained); they have to know the playbook (i.e. what is the vision, what are we working towards and what are the steps to get there); let the team execute the plays (i.e. step in only where adjustments are needed); celebrate wins (i.e. have fun too!).
“My philosophy has always been: we spend about a third of our lives at work, so enjoy the job you have. If you don’t, then change jobs — find something else — life is too short to be unhappy for a third of your life! I have been extremely lucky as I have thoroughly enjoyed each job I’ve had!”
Bruce holds an honours BA from the University of Windsor, an MBA from the Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario and is a graduate of the Canadian Forces Staff College. He is also a Chartered Professional Accountant. Bruce and his wife Erin live in Maberly, near Perth, where Bruce makes his own maple syrup; they also own a gift shop on Perth’s main street called Ground Waves! The couple has five children, seven grandchildren and three dogs to keep them busy in their spare time.