Managing Partner, KPMG
This is something you don’t normally hear from an accounting executive: “I always wanted to learn acoustic guitar,” says Patrick Canning, managing partner at the Chicago office of audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG LLP, who’s taking guitar lessons at Old Town School of Folk Music. “My daughter Abbey moved here from Boston last year, and we decided to take the class together,” he explains, proudly showing a video of him strumming a tune by indie folk rock band The Decemberists. “We just ‘graduated’ Guitar 2.”
The 55-year-old Rhode Island native transferred from KPMG Boston to Chicago in 2012. “I spent my entire career on the East Coast,” he says. “I was managing partner of Boston, and the New England practice spanned eight cities across the New England states plus upstate New York. It’s a great place to operate, but Chicago is the second largest market for KPMG. So when they asked me to consider the opportunity to be managing partner here, I knew it was a fantastic opportunity.” Plus, he was ready for a change of scenery.
“At the time the job was offered it to me, our daughters were grown and it was an opportunity for me and my wife, Betsy, to do something different,” explains Mr. Canning. “We thought it would be an exciting adventure, and we’ve been favorably impressed by our time in Chicago so far. I’ve been fully immersed in my role. Betsy has made friends and become a lot more involved, volunteering at Misericordia. We weren’t expecting Abbey to be out here, but a couple of her roommates from Boston College are from Chicago and Milwaukee, and she also wanted try something different. So she’s living with us, and it has really helped my wife’s transition.”
With over 1,800 employees spanning floors 55 to 61 in the Aon Center, he wants to make sure KPMG provides a great work environment. “We have an 18-person committee to help us achieve that,” he says. So upon meeting a CEO in Chicago with a ping-pong table in his office, Mr. Canning was inspired. “We purchased two ping-pong tables and had an open competition with about 75 employees. It was a great way to relax and discover hidden talents.”
KPMG also has a solid women’s initiative in place that has served as a model for other companies. “KPMG’s Network of Women – or KNOW – was formed in 2003,” explains Mr. Canning. “Each major office around the country has a KNOW chapter to stress the importance of attracting and retaining women at KPMG and to address issues specific to women’s careers. It has been a very successful initiative for the firm.”
Ironically, for a man whose career focuses on finance, if Mr. Canning were to name one financial mistake he’s learned from, it’s his old stock picks. “I didn’t talk to my wife about them when we set aside college funds for our daughters, Abbey and Caroline. I thought in the world I live in, I must be able to pick successful stocks. But to this day, Betsy reminds me that my stocks didn’t do as well as hers. I should have listened to my wife.”