From Providence to Chicago, KPMG’s Patrick Canning Has Rhode Island Roots

The addresses have changed and the cities grow larger with each move, but Rhode Island native Patrick J. Canning’s professional expertise, vision, work ethic and overall leadership abilities have remained constant for nearly three decades in Providence.

Currently the managing partner of KPMG’s Chicago office -- the firm’s second largest -- Canning is responsible for overseeing the delivery of high quality client service, development of marketplace strategy, attracting and retaining key resources, and representing the firm in the marketplace and the community.  He was named managing partner of Chicago in June, 2012, after holding the same position in Providence, and later, Boston.  He also serves on KPMG’s Board of Directors.

Canning has more than 30 years of experience providing financial statement audit and due diligence services.  He has provided professional audit services to many large, multinational companies in accordance with PCAOB requirements and U.S. GAAP.  Canning’s audit experience with multi-billion dollar companies ranges from SEC filings, carve-out financial statements and the successful coordination of large global audits.  He has a thorough understanding of SEC rules and regulations and has been involved in numerous equity offerings. He has extensive international experience in the consumer products, retail, and electronics manufacturing sectors.

Although Canning now calls Chicago his home, a big piece of his heart remains in the Ocean State.  We recently caught up with him at his Chicago office, where he embraced the opportunity to touch base with his friends back home.

WC: Where are you from originally? How long did you work in the Providence office, and what did you most enjoy about that stretch of your career?

Canning: I am from Cumberland and graduated from Providence College in 1981.  I interned as an office services clerk with the Providence office of Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. and began my career as a full time audit associate in the summer of 1981.

I then spent 28 years in the Providence office where I was promoted to partner in 1990 and. became managing partner in 1999.  I served in that role until I transferred to Boston to become managing partner of that office in March 2009.

I have fond memories of my time in Providence.  In an office of 100 people, I had the privilege of knowing everyone personally as the workplace had a family atmosphere.  What I enjoyed most about Rhode Island was the opportunity to serve great clients, get involved with impactful civic organizations like the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, and cheering my daughters on at their Lincoln School sports.

WC: After such a lengthy stay in Rhode Island, how was the adjustment in moving to Chicago. What has the experience been like thus far?

Canning: In 2009, I became managing partner of KPMG’s Boston Office, which is a top ten market for KPMG with over 700 employees.  The three years I spent in this role made me well prepared for my move to Chicago.  Chicago is KPMG’s second largest office, with over 2,100 employees and 90 Fortune 1000 companies headquartered in our market. The office is a center of excellence for several of our national practices and we are on pace to double the size of our Chicago practice by 2020.

The Chicago business community is very welcoming to new executives, and, similar to Boston and Providence, there is a strong public-private partnership between the business community and civic organizations.  I was fortunate to become quickly involved as a board member on a variety of important non-profit and civic organizations.  These organizations include World Business Chicago, which is chaired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, founded in 1877, whose members are the CEOs of the major companies in greater Chicago.  In 2016, I will Chair the United Way Campaign for Metropolitan Chicago.

My wife, Betsy, has enjoyed the move too, but she still spends her summers in Narragansett.  I also learned to appreciate Rhode Island summers as a member of the Wannamoisett and Point Judith country clubs.  It was important for me to find a great club to join in Chicago so that my Rhode Island friends will have a reason to come out to visit!

WC: What are some things you experienced in Rhode Island that have helped in your success in Chicago?

Canning: Providence is a city-state where easy access to city, state and federal legislators is taken for granted.  The business community was always at the table trying to help solve the most pressing issues of the day. The City of Providence and the state have their share of financial problems, as do the City of Chicago and Illinois, but from my experiences in Rhode Island, I’m able to appreciate the magnitude of the problems.   I have confidence that with strong and bold leadership, like we have with the Mayor of Chicago and the newly elected Governor of Illinois, and active engagement by the business community, positive change is possible.

I am very involved with the city and have put forth efforts to improve the education of Chicago Public School children as well as initiatives to improve the health, safety and employment prospects of the underserved through volunteer efforts with Metropolitan Family Services and The United Way. 
WC: What are some of the major differences from a market the size of Rhode Island to the Chicago office?

Canning: Chicago is the third largest city in America with 3 million people, which makes it difficult to compare to the size of Providence or to the state. While the size and scale are vastly different, similarities do exist, such as: the importance of having large public and private companies who can anchor the business community, including major healthcare systems that are among the largest employers; colleges and universities that attract bright young people who remain long after graduation to begin their careers; and business leaders that play a lead role in corporate philanthropy.
WC: You have been elected to KPMG's national board? How did that come about?

Canning: A member of the Nominating Committee asked me to consider running.  The Committee ultimately decided that my breadth of experiences, combined with my global experiences as an audit partner over the past twenty-five years, would add value to the discussions in the board room over the next five years. It’s been a tremendous honor serving on our board and having the opportunity to represent the interests of all 1,900 of our US partners.

WC: What are some of the experiences you had from your days in RI that you think you now bring to KPMG on a national level?

Canning: I was fortunate to start my career in Rhode Island.  I learned the importance of building relationships and caring about our people.  I had a great mentor that I leaned on throughout my career, so I try to promote the importance of supporting our people so they get the most out of their careers at KPMG.  Despite the size of our Chicago office, I try to do things to keep it small.  For example, I have a weekly breakfast with eight to ten of our professionals to stay connected and learn what’s on their minds.  We have significant plans for growth which will mean more opportunities for our people and an even greater need to create opportunities to connect with each other.