Alumni profile: Bridget Musker

We jumped at the chance to talk to Bridget Musker, Director of Financial Strategy and Modelling within the New Zealand Defence Force’s Finance Branch. After 18 years at Deloitte, Bridget shares what it’s like working in a military organisation and plus some lessons and insights from along her career journey.

When were you at Deloitte and what was your role?

I was at Deloitte from February 1994 to May 2012, starting as a graduate and leaving as an Associate Director, working part time for eight years while I had my three sons now aged 5, 8 and 10.

Tell us about favourite memory of your time at Deloitte.

A real highlight for me was the opportunity and privilege of mentoring around 15 graduates who became Chartered Accountants. And, of course, I meet my husband Michael there!

What do you do at the New Zealand Defence Force?

I’m the Director of Financial Strategy and Modelling within the Defence Force’s Finance Branch. We joke that our Defence Force runs its own shipping company, its own airline, and, through the Army, an international logistics firm.

By New Zealand standards we are a fairly big enterprise. The capital portfolio we manage is forecasted to spend $16.2 billion dollars over the next 15 years and the Defence Force’s current operating spend is around $2.3 billion dollars annually.

My team is the centre of excellence for scenario and whole-of-life costing and is responsible for setting and monitoring a finance strategy in line with the Defence Force’s strategy. We create and and own 4 Year, 10 Year and 35 Year plans for the Defence Force’s finance function, and includes Balance Sheet, Cash Flow, Appropriations and P&L.

Specifically, I’m responsible for the provision of costing of Military Capability, Military Plan and Activities; and for Whole of Life Costing and Capability Business cases. My team also provides assistance to the Defence Force with costing at many levels including output, product, process and functional levels, as well as the provision of costing models to address strategic issues and supporting regular planning activities.

What does a regular day in your role look like?

The work varies greatly but essentially I work with my team to create financial scenarios to enable the Defence Force leadership team to optimise capital and operating results in a sustainable financial plan. To do this I attend workshops that are developing scenarios for the future design of military capabilities that meet government policy. It is then my role to cost these scenarios and ensure that everything balances from an operating and capital funding point of view.

I also spend time out of the office experiencing the military capabilities that I’m costing and to meet some of the incredible New Zealanders who are preparing to respond to whatever our country demands of them. There is sometimes international travel to gain insights into how our other Defence Partners model their capabilities.

We are currently implementing a new operating model, so on a daily basis, I am also focusing on areas including growing and nurturing talent, leading our ‘One Finance’ approach, promoting good governance and accountability, and on being effective partners within the wider organisation.

How did you transition from professional services to the Defence Force?

I left Deloitte to spend time with my family with the intention of finding a new role when my youngest son started school. Stefan Collins (Partner in Consulting) approached me about a role at the Defence Force during this time and I was offered the job, and I haven’t looked back.

What was the most challenging part of the transition?

It has definitely been learning how the military operates and the complex set of variables and capabilities that make up the design of a modern Defence Force. It is also a very different cultural environment with 13,000-plus people from varied backgrounds and experience, and a mix of civilian and military people.  

Which of the lessons you learnt at Deloitte have transferred to your work at the Defence Force?

Three key lessons come to mind. Firstly, the importance of building strong customer relationships and key stakeholder management. Secondly, ensuring that your teams’ roles are well defined, that they understand the part they are playing and the timeframes they are working towards. Lastly, ensuring you have documented your assumptions, processes and systems.

What is the role of the New Zealand Defence Force both locally and internationally?

Every day our Defence Force contributes to the defence and security of New Zealand. We deliver a huge range of tasks that matter to ordinary Kiwis. Locally, we help with search and rescue; protect our maritime resources; respond to natural disasters, dispose of explosive ordnance; support conservation efforts on remote islands; help deter unwelcome intrusions within our region; and protect our trading routes.

Globally, the New Zealand Defence Force has an enviable reputation for its professionalism and skills. The capacity to do combat-related tasks is, of course, the fundamental imperative of any Defence Force. While the use of military force is an option of last resort, in a sometimes violent world, there are occasions when its use is appropriate and necessary to protect life and prevent misery. We contribute to international stability operations, and with our international partners, we respond to threats to human security and international order.

What gets you out of bed every day?

I’m a career-loving mum. Being a great role model to my sons while undertaking work which is challenging and uses my strengths as a finance leader – that’s what gets me out of bed every day.

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