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Tuesday, 28th January 2020
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In appreciation Denis O'Connor Back  
Brian Daly pays tribute to Denis O'Connor's contribution to KPMG.
Denis O'Connor, managing partner of KPMG died peacefully on Christmas Day 2006. Denis was 46. He had been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer twelve months previously. We have lost a gentleman, a person it is a privilege to have known and worked with, a man of great integrity and intelligence who had achieved a tremendous amount for himself, his family and KPMG, and who

throughout his career had earned huge respect and admiration from his clients and colleagues.
He was always ambitious, personally and for KPMG. Yet he was not someone who needed the outward signs of success for himself. He was a modest person who drew great pride from quietly and effectively influencing and contributing to the successes of those around him.
Throughout 2006, notwithstanding his illness, Denis continued to provide his input and insights as managing partner into the running of KPMG. He demonstrated the determination and resilience which throughout his life had allowed him to achieve so much in both career and personal terms. He never lost the focus on the things he'd always cared most for, his family, in particular Margaret and their four children, and his work. He didn't see a need to strive to fulfill unachieved ambitions. He had already achieved much and was happy he had lived his life in a way that enabled him to make the most of the circumstances and opportunities he faced. With the clarity of thinking that he applied to all he did, he saw that so much more could be achieved by continuing to do what he had always loved most and make the most of the circumstances he now faced. It was this absolute integrity and commitment to his professional and personal affairs that made Denis a tremendous person and colleague.

Denis was born in Dublin and educated in Shannon after his family moved there, attending Shannon Comprehensive College. After his BComm in UCD, he easily earned a place in the highly competitive post grad accountancy course in UCD- the forerunner of today's Masters in Accountancy. He joined KPMG in 1981 and qualified in 1983. Two years later, he and Margaret, who he'd met in college, set off to the US. Denis worked with KPMG in Stamford Connecticut, where his client roster included General Electric.

Denis and Margaret returned to Ireland in 1987, and Denis's career progressed, with him becoming a partner in 1993 and heading KPMG Financial Services Group from 1998 to 2004. Busy years. Successful years. But no matter how busy or successful he was, Denis was a family man who was always had a very keen interest and an active involvement in his family.

Denis succeeded Jerome Kennedy as managing partner in 2004 some months after 20 partners from Arthur Andersen joined KPMG in a welcome but challenging development. Any coming together of people from different corporate entities carries with it an imperative to merge the teams and talents so they add up to more than the sum of their previous parts. Denis quietly and consistently ensured the right kind of context for that to happen.

In the years before he took on the role of managing partner, he earned the respect of clients with quiet powerful analysis of issues, accompanied by compelling advice. He applied the same skills in dealing with his people and building his teams. They invariably benefited from his ability and willingness to provide honest and insightful comment.

In the financial services area he was a major contributor to KPMG in two key sectors, aviation and insurance.

He was heavily involved in the whole GPA story which ultimately made Ireland a world leading centre of excellence for aircraft leasing. Denis was a central advisor and supporter of many initiatives in this sector- and his skills were also well applied in the wider aviation sphere as well, including with Ryanair.

The other sector was in the insurance practice within KPMG Ireland, where Denis led the Irish Life & Permanent team. The fact that KPMG holds such a strong position in the sector today is due in no small measure to Denis's reputation in the industry, his ability to master complex issues such as the interaction of insurance accounting and actuarial calculations and the team he built around him.
During 2006 he fought as bravely as anyone could in dealing with his illness. He took on any treatment his doctor introduced him to. He never lost hope and most importantly, he was never diminished in spirit by it. No matter what the circumstances, and there were many ups and downs during the year as he went through the different treatments, he always had a smile for his colleagues and visitors and a genuine inquiry and interest in how things were for them. To everyone who had the pleasure of working and meeting with Denis during 2006, he truly was an inspiration. He met his illness and his death the way he met his life: with understated intelligence and dignity.

For those who worked with Denis as a colleague or client, we will miss him greatly. He was one of those people from whom we learned a lot, by his actions as much as his words. He was the epitome of integrity and fairness in all of his dealings with people. He was a person who cared deeply about his family, his colleagues, his clients and his work. It was the living out of these values that made him the exceptional person and leader that he was. Thankfully he left us with tremendous memories to reflect and look back on.

Brian worked closely with Denis throughout his career in KPMG.

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