Ottawa’s Grant McDonald and Carol Devenny not ready to hang it up just yet

Former office managing partners with KPMG Ottawa, PwC Ottawa continue second careers while based in Barbados
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With their ocean views and early-morning walks on the beach, it may seem like Grant McDonald and Carol Devenny are living the retirement dream since packing up, picking up and moving down to sunny Barbados a few months ago.

They’re actually both holding down brand new full-time jobs – and then some. McDonald has become managing partner and head of tax of KPMG in Barbados and Eastern Caribbean (BEC), which includes practices in Antigua, St. Lucia and St. Vincent. Devenny works remotely, both with her full-time role at Equality Fund as well as her role as senior advisor for StrategyCorp.

Before their big move, the husband and wife had worked tirelessly over the course of their nearly four-decades-long careers. They both turned 60 last year, considered by many an ideal age for retirement. Nobody would have blamed them if they’d headed off into the setting sun. Instead, they both looked to start a new chapter in their professional lives.

“I’m so glad to have this opportunity,” said McDonald during a video call alongside Devenny from their beautiful beachfront condo in Barbados, where they’ve been living and working since November. “It gives you a new sense of purpose.”

McDonald was with KPMG Canada for 38 years, as was Devenny with PwC Canada. They both made partner and were at one point both managing partners at their respective professional services firms in Ottawa. They’d been hired fresh out of their business program at Queen’s University, where they first met. 

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Grant McDonald, when he was office managing parter with KPMG Ottawa, and Carol Devenny, when she was office managing partner with PwC Ottawa, seen together in 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

By June 2020, Devenny had reached her firm’s mandatory retirement age and McDonald was approaching his. 

“I wasn’t ready to hang it up,” says McDonald. 

He didn’t have to. KPMG International asked McDonald to manage its KPMG BEC partnership, which employs about 150 people. He has 25 years’ experience as a tax partner. He’s handled multinational clients and is well-versed in international tax. He also knows all about a managing partner’s role to build customer relationships, grow the market and win new work. He officially retired from KPMG Canada on Monday.

“I really am grateful to be working here; that means a lot to me because I think I have a lot to offer,” said McDonald. “I feel re-energized having something brand new to focus on and people who are very welcoming and professional. 

“It’s not that you got stale or tired before, because every day is different in our business, but you really do get a new sense of enthusiasm and energy that’s very rewarding at this age and stage of our lives.”

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KPMG office located in Hastings, Barbados.

Likewise, Devenny knew she wanted to keep working and to continue challenging herself as her career with PwC was winding down.

“I was really struggling last year, wondering what I would do next.”

Two days into her retirement, she started a full-time job as CFO of the women-led Equality Fund, a groundbreaking collaboration designed to deliver new momentum for women's movements. Led by co-CEO Jess Tomlin and Jess Houssian it drives cultural, economic and political changes required to make global gender equality a reality. 

She is also an independent advisor for public affairs and management consultancy StrategyCorp. Its Ottawa office is led by managing principal Lisa Samson.

Devenny said her new roles leave her with newfound energy, as well as feeling appreciated for her seasoned experience.

Devenny, who’d been a female trailblazer at PwC, is also board chair of the Ottawa Community Foundation and has joined the National Arts Centre Foundation as chair of its audit and finance committee – a role previously held by her husband. She is also very active on the local and national boards of the International Women's Forum (IWF) and is looking forward to connecting with IWF Barbados.

McDonald and Devenny were already familiar with Barbados, having repeatedly vacationed there in the past. They had also befriended the late Evelyn Greaves, former high commissioner to Canada, during his posting in Ottawa. 

Barbados has a well-developed financial services industry. Several large Canadian banks – including CIBC, Scotiabank and RBC – maintain a significant presence on the island. It also has a stable economic and political environment with a highly educated workforce, they pointed out.

Barbados remains in a pandemic lockdown, with no flights currently to and from Canada until April 30. COVID-19 has made it challenging for Devenny and McDonald to stay connected with friends and family, although they try their best via video conferencing. Newly engaged son Braden works for PwC Consulting in Toronto.

McDonald says he’s looking forward to the day when they can host visitors from Canada and when COVID restrictions relax enough so that he can become more involved in the community. He’s also eager to return to the KPMG office building, which is only a 10-minute walk from his home. His new gig comes with an office that offers expansive views of the beach and ocean.

The hard-working couple say they’ve allowed themselves to adjust to the island’s pleasant lifestyle since moving to Barbados. They've enjoyed meeting interesting new people and making new friends. They have dinner each night out on their terrace, where they can hear the chorus of the tree frogs and can watch the evening sky transition from sunset to starry. 

“I’m more relaxed,” said McDonald. “In my own way.”

— caroline@obj.ca