"We have built for the long term" - Alban D'Amours takes stock of his eight years as President of Desjardins Group

    QUEBEC CITY, March 29 /CNW Telbec/ - The cooperative business model is
both modern and productive, is better suited than any other model to take on
the challenges of globalization. Such is the conviction arrived at by
Mr. Alban D'Amours, President and Chief Executive Officer of Desjardins Group,
at the end of his eight years at the head of the largest integrated
cooperative financial group in Canada.
    In his last address to the caisse delegates gathered today in Québec City
for the Desjardins Annual General Meetings, Mr. D'Amours reviewed the major
accomplishments since March 2000, when he entered his functions as President
of Desjardins Group. According to him, the road was marked with significant
action in the areas of Desjardins' governance, business development and
financial performance, while deepening its cooperative authenticity.
    One of Mr. D'Amours' first achievements of was to implement the new
Fédération, which was created through the merger of the federations of
regional and group caisses with the Confédération des caisses populaires et
d'économie Desjardins du Québec. This made it possible, among other things, to
make significant changes to Desjardins Group's governance while giving the
regional and group caisses the opportunity for more direct communication
within the various decision-making bodies of Desjardins Group. "We also allow
caisse representatives brought together at the Assembly of Representatives,
the power to decide on orientations regarding the major issues facing
Desjardins Group. Today, there are no major issues in which they are not
involved or that do not allow them to give their opinion and influence
decisions," he added.
    It is also under the presidency of Mr. D'Amours that the 18th Congress of
Officers was to discuss cooperative renewal, following consultations that
involved some 25,000 caisse(s) members. "We also undertook to optimize member
participation - in both its political and its financial aspects - in the life
of the caisse and the network. We also made the decision to get closer to
young people, which gave rise to the creation of the Youth Focus program,
which was deployed through a wide range of initiatives throughout the Group.
We also clarified the zones of our support framework and the independence of
the caisse and agreed upon a regular review of the standards and policies
affecting them."
    Mr. D'Amours also underlined the strength of the commitment of the
caisses to their community, mentioning that sponsorships, donations, and
scholarships and grants to the communities and individuals more than doubled
since the beginning of the decade, to reach 72 million dollars in 2007. The
President added: "The creation of a Community Development Fund within the
caisses has also made it possible to provide even more concrete support today
to community-driven projects. And we did it by calling upon the democratic
participation of our members."
    Business development also accelerated over the last eight years, with
2007 being the year when the 100-billion-dollar threshold was reached in
savings investment held by Desjardins among individuals in Québec alone. Gains
in market share, the campaign launched in Greater Montréal, the opening to
cultural communities, rapprochement with the Canadian credit union movement,
as well as the expansion throughout Canada by the many Desjardins components
are examples that demonstrate, according to Mr. D'Amours, Desjardins' real
momentum in Québec and in Canada.
    One of the collective achievements of the caisses of which Mr. D'Amours
says he is most proud is the growth of member satisfaction. This enables
Mr. D'Amours to affirm that Desjardins is by far the most popular financial
institution in Québec, as shown by annual surveys carried out by firms whose
methodology is scientifically proven. "Our attitude to members, our commercial
practices, products and services that better meet all types of needs, our
exemplary commitment to the community; all of this, with a great deal of
perseverance, leads to achievements that are both noticed and appreciated and
that are increasingly associated with Desjardins' cooperative difference.
Surveys have confirmed this to be true," he pointed out.
    With respect to profitability, Mr. D'Amours recalled that, since 2000,
Desjardins went from annual surplus earnings that were never higher than
$500 million to surplus earnings which, for a fourth consecutive year in 2007,
reached or surpassed $1 billion. The amount of dividends paid to members
quadrupled and for the last 5 years Desjardins was able to maintain a return
on equity within the 12% to 15% range that he had set. The level of capital
maintained also constitutes an element of pride and Mr. D'Amours recalled in
this regard that Desjardins today belongs to the very select circle of the
100 most solid financial institutions in the world, according to The Banker
    The outgoing president of Desjardins also reviewed the various
initiatives underway to improve Desjardins' overall performance including its
synergies' program, mentioning that: "All of these efforts to improve our
profitability have not been achieved through an uncontrolled race for higher
returns. On the contrary, it is because we know how to balance our targeted
financial performance with the expression of our cooperative difference, which
also requires our attention, our time and our resources. We are aiming for not
only sustainable, but also overall performance. We know how to take the
necessary means to make money work for people as tangibly as possible, thereby
proving that a cooperative can succeed financially without losing its soul."
    In conclusion, Mr. D'Amours stressed the versatility of the cooperative
formula, its ability to adapt and the fact that it is resolutely turned toward
action and self-sufficiency. This brings him to believe that after "Québec
Inc.", we are now in the era of "Canada and Québec Co-op", carried forward by
the values of cooperation. "We were in fact inspired by these very values as
we built Desjardins Group to last and with it, our communities are better
equipped to deal with the future," he declared.
    In conclusion, Mr. D'Amours invited the new Desjardins Group president,
Ms. Monique F. Leroux, to rely on the intelligence, lucidity and creativity of
the people in place in Desjardins to support her in her new mandate. "Madam
President, you have now earned the privilege to buckle down to the exciting
task of guiding Desjardins Group in continuing its progress. The vital force
that sustains Desjardins asks only to follow you and to support you in
carrying out your task. You can count on them - just like you can count on my
support and availability".

    About Desjardins Group

    The largest integrated cooperative financial group in Canada, with global
assets of over $144 billion as at December 31, 2007, Desjardins Group consists
of a network of caisses/branches, credit unions and financial centres for
Québec- and Ontario-based companies, as well as about 20 subsidiaries in life
and general insurance, securities, venture capital, and asset management, many
of which are active nationwide. With the skills of its 40,000 employees and
the commitment of more than 6,500 elected officers, Desjardins offers its
5.8 million members and clients-individuals and businesses alike-a full range
of financial products and services. Its physical distribution network is
rounded out by virtual access methods supported by leading-edge technology.
For more information, visit www.desjardins.com.

For further information:

For further information: (for journalists only): André Chapleau,
Information and Media Relations Director, (514) 281-7229, 1-866-866-7000, ext.
7229, andre.chapleau@desjardins.com; March 29: Press room at the Québec City
Convention Centre, (418) 649-5218

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