Monique Leroux Advocates for Cooperative Entrepreneurship

MONTREAL, April 23, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - Addressing the members of the Canadian Club of Montreal, Monique F. Leroux, Chair of the Board, President and CEO of Desjardins Group (www.desjardins.com), underscored the importance of the cooperative business model, one which has proven to be very successful for Desjardins Group and which has been a key factor in its growth across Canada.

As part of the International Year of Cooperatives, Ms. Leroux reminded the audience of the role that cooperative entrepreneurship plays in Quebec, Canada and internationally. Together, the 300 largest cooperatives in the world represent an economic power nearly equal to that of Canada—the 11th largest economy in the world.

She noted that one in three Canadians is a member of a cooperative and, in Quebec, data reveal that the rate of survival of cooperatives is twice that of all businesses combined. In this regard, Desjardins has undertaken to work more closely with cooperative businesses across the country using a personalized approach that is adapted to their realities.

For Monique F. Leroux, "a business that grows is a business that creates wealth and jobs." That is why Desjardins is making every effort to continually provide a better service to Canadian businesses.

Ms. Leroux also shared her enthusiasm about the upcoming 2012 International Summit of Cooperatives which will be held in Quebec City this October. She stated that the Summit will be an opportunity to showcase the values of cooperation, to take stock of the situation and to pave the way for the future growth of the cooperative and mutualist movement.

Desjardins Group continues to expand in the Canadian market—proof of how effective and resilient the cooperative business model each and every day. Ms. Leroux then went on to talk about the major thrusts of its growth strategy: "Our Canadian strategy is now based on a three-pronged approach. First: organic growth of our business. Second: acquisitions. And third: strategic partnerships."

Organic growth
The organic growth of Desjardins depends to a large extent on the activities of the caisses in Ontario, a network almost as old as that of Quebec. "Add to that our insurance companies, our card and payment services, Caisse centrale Desjardins and Desjardins Securities, which have also been active across Canada for the past several years. That presence is expanding year by year," declared Ms. Leroux.

Acquisitions
The second thrust of Desjardins Group is acquisitions, with two major acquisitions in 2011. The first was the acquisition of Western Financial Group. "Western Financial Group serves over 550,000 clients in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. It provides property and casualty insurance products to individuals and businesses, as well as life insurance products. This acquisition will enable us to reach new clients who can benefit from the Desjardins offer. We are adding new distribution networks and building a development centre in western Canada," pointed out Ms. Leroux.

Next, Desjardins acquired MGI Financial, which specializes in mutual fund brokerage. "MGI has over 225 advisors, mainly in Ontario and in the Prairies. It also sells insurance products and group pension plans."

Strategic partnerships
The third avenue of growth is strategic partnerships. In 2011, a partnership agreement was reached with Central One and Coast Capital Savings, a financial cooperative based in British Columbia, for card products aimed at individuals and businesses. Ms. Leroux also pointed out the cooperation agreement that was signed with Crédit Mutuel from France, which has some 6,000 points of sale and over 29 million clients in France, Germany and other European countries.

"As part of this agreement, we opened a representative office in Paris to support Canadian firms in developing their business in the European market. We also welcome European companies that are interested in investing in Quebec and in Canada. We have also created a venture capital fund specializing in the financing of technological companies; the target size of that fund is $100 million. We are also working with Crédit Mutuel on developing the market for payment solutions and electronic banking across Canada, in North America and abroad," enthused Ms. Leroux.

In conclusion, Ms. Leroux said she was satisfied with Desjardins Group's Canadian growth strategy. "The results are in line with our expectations. In life and health insurance, we are now the fourth largest insurance company in Canada, with offices across the country and over 5 million clients. 35% of our revenues come from outside Quebec. We are also among the top 10 property and casualty insurance companies in Canada. Approximately 45% of our property and casualty insurance revenues are generated outside Quebec."

Thanks to this growth, Desjardins can invest in and enhance its service offer, while contributing even more to the betterment of the economy, society and individuals.

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 Québec 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