In 1824, Edward Kenny and his brother Thomas arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, as clerks for James Lyons, a County Cork, Ireland Merchant. Natives of County Kerry, the Kennys had great ambition and the burgeoning port city, Britain’s “warden of the north”, offered the young businessmen a wonderful opportunity. By 1827 the brothers had become partners with Lyons, and by 1828 the Novascotian reported the establishment of T& E Kenny at “No. 24 Hollis Street, opposite the province building”. The brothers intended to carry on the linen, woolen, and fancy trade, both wholesale and retail. Soon after they moved their location to offices on Barrington Street and erected “an imposing granite office-warehouse complex.” Within five years, the firm was annually importing goods worth in the vicinity of £ 15,000.
Despite his political responsibilities, Kenny’s first love was business. In 1856 trade was flourishing in Halifax and there was plenty of surplus capital, yet many of the merchants felt that the existing financial institutions were “too restrictive in terms of providing access to capital and were therefore holding back the city’s progress.” Kenny and a number of prominent merchants, which included William Stairs and John W. Ritchie, formed the Union Bank. Within a few years the bank had many influential and wealthy customers and some twenty branches across the colony. Seven years after the founding of the Union Bank, Kenny and his son were involved in another financial endeavor when they helped establish the Merchants Bank of Halifax. By 1870 the bank had branches in Pictou, Antigonish, Bridgewater, Lunenburg, Truro and Weymouth. In 1901 the bank was renamed the Royal Bank of Canada, and in 1907 it moved its offices to Montreal.
His children were quite successful, one became a prominent Halifax businessman, three sons became priests, and one daughter became a nun. His son-in-law, Malachy Bowes Daly was successful in capturing a parliamentary seat for Halifax in (and eventually became Lieutenant Governor of the province). In 1862, Kenny, his brother (who died in 1868), and his two sons helped to found the prestigious Halifax Club. By mid-life, Kenny was one of the wealthiest men in Nova Scotia, and one of the most prominent Irishmen in British North America. He had a love of horses and his “riding and driving”, argued one historian, “no doubt contributed to the good health which he enjoyed through an unusually long life”.