Desjardins Group celebrates 110th anniversary
LÉVIS, QC, Dec. 5 /CNW Telbec/ - On December 6, 1900, in a small community hall on Bégin Street in Lévis, Qc, Alphonse Desjardins, his wife, Dorimène and one hundred of their fellow citizens unanimously agreed to adopt the constitution and regulations of Caisse populaire de Lévis. The objectives of this savings and credit cooperative, the first in North America, were to provide its members with access to savings and credit services thereby equipping them with a tool for local development. From that moment on depositors would be known as members—not simply as clients—who, according to the "one person, one vote" principle, would have a say in how their financial cooperative was run.
This was the birth of Desjardins Group, which now boasts 5.8 million members and clients. With the commitment of its 6,000 elected officers and the skills and talent of its 42,200 employees, Desjardins Group is currently the largest financial institution in Québec, the leading cooperative financial group in Canada and sixth in the world, with assets of more than 175 billion dollars.
"We are celebrating the 110th anniversary of a genuinely visionary gesture—a gesture that, thanks to the commitment of millions of cooperators, really changed how the North American financial sector operates," states Monique F. Leroux, Chair of the Board, President and CEO of Desjardins Group. "In fact, the New York publication Global Finance ranked Desjardins Group the fourth safest banking institution in North America, ahead of all American banks. A few days ago, the British magazine The Banker recognized its cooperative and financial performance by awarding Desjardins with the coveted title of Bank of the Year 2010 - Canada. We've come so far since that meeting on December 6, 1900!"
The path of a visionary
Alphonse Desjardins was a stenographer in the House of Commons beginning in 1892. On April 6, 1897, he heard disturbing revelations from a Montréal MP, Michael Quinn, who presented the House with the case of a borrower who had been sentenced by a court to pay interest fees of $5,000 on an original loan of $150.
After hearing about this case, Alphonse Desjardins initiated an exhaustive search for a way to counteract the practice of loan sharking. Through his discovery of People's Banks, a publication by British author Henry W. Wolff, Desjardins came into contact with a number of credit cooperative specialists in England, France, Italy and other European countries. After numerous years of study and correspondence, Alphonse Desjardins created a made-in-Canada savings and credit cooperative model, which drew from the experience of Italian and German popular banks, German, French and Belgian rural caisses and North American savings banks.
Alphonse Desjardins' project to create a vast caisse network was soon underway. After a successful trial in Lévis along with the help of his wife, Dorimène, who managed the caisse during his frequent and lengthy absences, and with the support of social leaders, Alphonse Desjardins decided to open more caisses. From 1900 to 1915, he founded 164 caisses populaires, 18 of which in Ontario and nine in the United States, in addition to a credit union for federal civil servants in Ottawa.
Alphonse Desjardins died on October 31, 1920. Today, he is considered as the "father of the cooperative movement in North America". In 2009, he was awarded the title of "the Greatest Canadian Co-operator" as part of an online contest organized by the Canadian Co-operative Association. More than 8,000 Canadians took part in the contest.
About Desjardins Group
Desjardins Group is the leading cooperative financial group in Canada and the sixth largest in the world, with assets of over $175 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 42,200 employees and the commitment of near 6,000 elected officers. For more information, visit www.desjardins.com.
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