Monique F. Leroux asks Montréal's business people to cooperate and work together to create sustainable prosperity for Québec

MONTREAL, April 28 /CNW Telbec/ - In her address to the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montréal, Ms. Monique F. Leroux, Chair of the Board, President and CEO of Desjardins Group, invited business people to cooperate and work together to create sustainable prosperity for Québec. "I truly love Québec, and working towards sustainable prosperity is an aspiration that should be shared," said Ms. Leroux.

Basing her comments on a comprehensive study entitled "For a better future in Québec," published today by the Desjardins Group Economic Studies team, Ms. Leroux described the types of action necessary to meet the challenges facing Québec.

One major factor is innovation. "Innovation of course means making new discoveries and new products to meet new needs. But innovation is more than that," she said. "It is also about doing things differently, more efficiently, using highly productive tools and especially with the contribution of creative, well-trained employees."

According to Ms. Leroux, there are three main elements needed to consolidate a culture of innovation. They are education, entrepreneurship and personal commitment coupled with cooperation. On education, Ms. Leroux believes "it is individuals with higher education who will enable our businesses to innovate and compete on a local, regional or even global scale. We must now do everything in our power to promote student retention and increase the number of people with graduate degrees."

The second element is individual and collective initiative or entrepreneurship. "We must be able to translate good ideas into viable businesses, community projects and commercial applications. Innovation depends on entrepreneurial ability," said Ms. Leroux, while admitting to her audience that we are not the most entrepreneurial of nations. "Our collective culture does not place as much value as it should on the desire to build, which is characteristic of entrepreneurs."

To education and entrepreneurship, Ms. Leroux added another ingredient, personal commitment and cooperation, as she believes that this attitude is more necessary than ever in today's world.

"Today, with the Internet, social media and global markets," declared Ms. Leroux, "we have never been so concerned by the same events and so interdependent. We therefore have no choice but to work together, whether it be across our local and regional communities, or on a nationwide or even planetary scale."

"Cooperation encourages a constructive approach," she asserted. "It makes people work together. It promotes dialogue in the search for practical solutions and stimulates the transition to action in a context of shared leadership. This is what we badly need today."

$40 million dedicated to promoting education and cooperation

Ms. Leroux particularly emphasized that education and cooperation are integral parts of the mission of the cooperative institution she leads. In fact, it was in keeping with that mission and with a desire to strengthen Desjardins Group's activities regarding education and cooperation that during the annual general meetings in March caisse delegates agreed to invest in Co-opme.D, a new program for education and cooperation.

Desjardins will invest 1% of its annual surpluses in the new program. Added to funds already earmarked for education and cooperation, this will represent a total of $40 million in 2011. Co-opme.D focuses on four main areas, the first being to strengthen the actions of Fondation Desjardins, the private foundation that offers the greatest number of university scholarships in Québec.

Ms. Leroux wants to raise Fondation Desjardins' capitalization from $14 million to $50 million. "We will increase the number of scholarships and play a greater role in shaping the next generation," she said, while inviting the audience and the general public to support Fondation Desjardins.

The second area concerns the Desjardins Cooperative Institute (DCI), Desjardins' "corporate university," which is to become the central hub for training and skills development for people across Desjardins Group.

Desjardins also intends to gradually open DCI to external clients. "I am announcing today that we will intensify our partnership with colleges and universities in Québec and across Canada by setting up a joint discussion table on various areas of knowledge and skills," declared Ms. Leroux, while announcing that she has committed to taking on 100 interns a year at Desjardins.

A new national index on making responsible financial decisions

The third area of focus for Co-opme.D deals with promoting sound financial habits, encouraging savings and managing credit responsibly.

In order to raise awareness and education regarding these issues, Ms. Leroux has revealed that among other things, Desjardins Group will launch a national index to measure Canadians' ability to make responsible financial decisions by the end of the year.

"This tool will measure people's knowledge, skills and commitment to managing their personal finances. It will also be available on the Desjardins Group Web site for self-assessment, which will allow everyone to determine which of their financial habits must be improved."

Finally, the last area concerns the promotion of cooperation. In this regard, Ms. Leroux mentioned that the United Nations declared the year 2012 as the "International Year of Cooperatives". Desjardins intends to make a significant contribution by hosting a large International Summit of Cooperatives in Québec City in the fall of 2012 in collaboration with major global cooperative associations that is expected to be "a great time of convergence for the cooperative movements of Québec, Canada and around the world."

Cooperating in building the future

In conclusion, Ms. Leroux invited business people to put aside their differences so they can collaborate and become more involved in ensuring sustainable prosperity for Québec.

"We are sometimes in competition with each other in our respective markets, and that's fair. Nonetheless, our broader collective challenges do require our collaboration and mutual commitment. I am convinced that we have all the collective strength, talent, intelligence, resources and creativity necessary to do so for a better future."

About Desjardins Group

Awarded the coveted title "Bank of the Year 2010 - Canada" by the UK magazine The Banker, Desjardins Group is the leading cooperative financial group in Canada and the sixth largest in the world, with assets of over $172 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 5.8 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 one of Canada's 10 Most Admired Corporate CulturesTM of 2010, Desjardins is supported by the skills of its 42,500 employees and the commitment of nearly 6,000 elected officers. For more information, visit www.desjardins.com.


SOURCE DESJARDINS GROUP

For further information:

(for journalists only):
André Chapleau
Media Relations, Desjardins Group
514 281-7229 or 1 866 866-7000, ext. 7229
media@desjardins.com

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