A 'professional practice' template for Canada's corporate financial services institutions

The history of Desjardins Group, the largest financial co-operative group in Canada and sixth largest in the world with overall assets of more than $175-billion, is intertwined with that of modern Quebec.

For more than 100 years, the development and growth of the Desjardins network and the diversification of its activities paralleled the social and economic boom of the province.

Today, that network is comprised of financial service cooperatives and some 20 subsidiary companies in life and general insurance, securities brokerage, venture capital and asset management across Canada.

Its 42,200 employees offer complete banking services to nearly six million members and clients.

As it has grown and expanded, Desjardins has always remained true to its founding philosophy: to contribute to the well-being of individuals and communities.

The values of Desjardins Group are clearly stated in its code of ethics and professional conduct: money at the service at human development; personal commitment; democratic action; integrity and vigour; solidarity with the community.

These values are at the core of what sets Desjardins Group apart in its industry and they are the reason the company was recently honoured by U.K. magazine The Banker with the coveted title, Bank of the Year 2010 -- Canada.

"We are not just a company that exists to make profits for our shareholders," says Suzanne Gendron, vice-president, executive services to the CEO and management committee of the Desjardins Group.

"We don't have shareholders. We have members who own Desjardins. We exist for them, for their communities and to make our world better.

"Being awarded Canada's Bank of the Year and being named one of Canada's Top 10 Corporate Cultures shows that people are recognizing the fact that we are different. We do things differently. We treat our people differently. We have a democratic structure.

"We invest tremendously in our communities and in our people and make financial education a priority.

"We are really quite proud that people can see the difference of our model and our values."

National Post
Monday, Feb. 7, 2011

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