Monique F. Leroux presents the priorities for her second term as President of Desjardins Group

MONTREAL, March 31, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - Monique F. Leroux, Chair of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer of Desjardins Group (www.desjardins.com), shared her goals for the coming years at the Desjardins Group Annual General Meeting held today at the Palais des congrès de Montréal.

These goals stem from four major priorities: cooperation, Desjardins members and clients, personal development, and growth at Desjardins Group.

Starting her second term as president of the cooperative financial group, Ms. Leroux chose to address Desjardins' members and clients directly via a live webcast. As she stated, one of her main goals for the coming years is to enhance and improve the quality of their relationship with Desjardins.

Cooperation

Cooperation is a key commitment of Ms. Leroux's second term. "At Desjardins we believe in cooperation. It is in our DNA. It is our past and our future. I want to make sure that we always stay connected and committed to you as a cooperative enterprise. That money remains at the service of human development".

With respect to cooperation, Ms. Leroux mentioned the creation —in 2011— of a program promoting financial and cooperative education. This program has led to the creation of a number of projects at Desjardins. She also announced that $10 million will be invested in a project to revitalize school and student caisses. Since their creation, these caisses have contributed to the financial and cooperative education of thousands of young people in schools across Quebec. These caisses will be able to further their mission for the next generation through their involvement in the update of school material.

Several other initiatives will be set up, such as the new budgeting tool designed to help members control their spending and achieve their financial goals. In addition, Desjardins will be launching an awareness campaign in the fall for those ages 45 to 65 to help them create a financial plan in preparation for retirement.

Members and clients

In 2011, Desjardins consulted with its members and clients to clearly identify their needs. According to the President, it was certainly worth the effort: "We realized that we must go that extra mile to meet your needs and expectations. We are going to make this a part of our service standards, by making sure it's incorporated into our best customer service practices. The quality of our relationship with you must be what distinguishes us from our competitors."

A number of initiatives have already been set up, such as new ways to better serve the members, new services to simplify their lives and changes made to certain methods of operation. Every effort is being made to ensure that Desjardins members and clients enjoy an enriching experience with their cooperative.

Personal development

More than 50,000 employees, elected officers and managers work at Desjardins. It is therefore only natural that personal development is at the heart of Monique Leroux's commitments.

"At Desjardins we believe in personal development. We are firm believers in training as a means of developing leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship. We also believe in the importance of training internships," she stated. In the same vein, she urged caisse elected officers to take on a more active role within the organization, for the members' benefit. "We also want them to be representative of you as members—men, women, youth, seniors, cultural communities. We want you to see them as a reflection of yourselves."

Desjardins Group growth

However, according to Ms. Leroux, these commitments cannot be fulfilled without first ensuring the growth of Desjardins Group: "Growth makes several things possible. It gives us leeway to face growing and fierce competition. It enables us to add new services and offer them at lower cost thanks to bigger sales volumes. It helps us to contribute to a thriving and prosperous cooperative movement."

Desjardins intends to take advantage of opportunities to continue accelerating its growth in Quebec, other provinces and internationally.

Ms. Leroux further announced that a number of other initiatives will focus on the growth of Desjardins Group. A service offer will soon be developed to assist cooperatives and mutuals. For example, a special fund will be created to help launch new businesses.

Desjardins Group is continuing to grow in western Canada thanks to the acquisition of Western Financial Group Inc., among others, or also through business development with our cooperative partners. Furthermore, its cooperative agreement with Crédit Mutuel will enable Desjardins to break into the European market. In fact, $50 million has already been invested in a new venture capital fund specialized in high tech financing. "At Desjardins, we are committed to creating new ways to spur growth and innovation every day to aid the development of the cooperative movement," said Ms. Leroux.

Putting the focus on people

Ms. Leroux firmly believes that cooperatives help build a better world because they put the focus on people. This is why she called on the members of Desjardins to continue the mission of the leading cooperative financial group in Canada.

Desjardins has great ambitions for 2012—the International Year of Cooperatives. "Together with you, we want to enhance the pride we feel in being part of Desjardins Group. A Desjardins Group that belongs to us and that no one can take away. A Desjardins Group that continues to meet the financial needs of individuals while supporting the development of communities," concluded Ms. Leroux.

About Desjardins Group

Desjardins Group www.desjardins.com is the leading cooperative financial group in Canada with assets of $190 billion. Drawing on the strength of its caisse network in Quebec and Ontario, and its subsidiaries across Canada, it offers a full range of financial products and services to its 5.6 million members and clients. Desjardins specializes in Wealth Management and Life and Health Insurance, in Property and Casualty Insurance, in Personal Services, in Business and Institutional Services. As one of the largest employers in the country and among Canada's Top 100 Employers for 2012TM, Desjardins is supported by the skills of its 44,645 employees and the commitment of nearly 5,400 elected officers. A new education and cooperation program is now available to Desjardins members and the general public. For more information, visit www.desjardins.com/co-opme.

For further information:

(for journalists only):
Nathalie Genest
Spokesperson
514-281-7275 or 1-866-866-7000, ext. 7275
media@desjardins.com

For March 31, 2012
Media room at the Palais des congrès de Montréal
514-789-3416