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Part of the Desjardins Group

Desjardins Group, the largest cooperative financial group in Canada with assets of over $258.4 billion[1], is ranked as the strongest bank in North America and fifth strongest in that same ranking worldwide[2].

Desjardins Group figures[3]

Total assets $258.4billion
Members / clients 7 million
Number of employees 47,655
Surplus earnings after taxes and before member dividends $1,772 million
Returns to the community (sponsorships and donations) $259 million

Desjardins Group granted in excess of $259 million in community support (donations and sponsorships) in 2016. Its network of Caisses, subsidiaries and Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network financial centres contribute locally to numerous community endeavours that support health, community services, education and culture


  • Named seventh Best Corporate Citizen in Canada by Corporate Knights, marking Desjardins’ fifth consecutive appearance in this ranking (As of December 31, 2016.)
  • Canada’s Top 50 Best Employers (AON, 2016)
  • Canada’s Top 100 Employers (Mediacorp, 2016)
  • Canada’s Top Family-Friendly Employers (Mediacorp, 2016)

History of Desjardins Group

Alphonse Desjardins

At the end of the 19th century, Québec’s population was 1.6 million made up of mostly of francophones living in rural areas. Farmers were in a difficult position because the past decades had been marked by a series of poor harvests forcing them to take on heavy debts.

Due to the high birth rate, the rural parishes along the Saint Lawrence valley were overpopulated and could not accommodate the surplus labour causing many people to move to cities to find work in factories.

Conditions were no better in the factories: salaries were low and jobs were temporary.

Greedy loan practices

Compounding the problems of working families, banks would only do business with merchants, manufacturers and wealthy families. Working-class people had little access to savings and loans. Many were victims of usurious lenders who, free of all constraint and oversight, charged outrageous rates of interest.

As a stenographer at the House of Commons, Alphonse Desjardins (born November 5, 1854) became aware of this phenomenon during a House debate: a member of parliament described a situation where the interest charged was up to 3,000%. Shocked by the injustice, in April 1897, Desjardins decided to find out how such practices were avoided elsewhere in the world.

Looking overseas

Desjardins’ research led him to a book entitled People’s Banks by Henry W. Wolff, which described the people’s banks and rural caisses in Europe. Desjardins wrote to the author, who referred him to the officers of those institutions in Europe.

Through correspondence, Desjardins came up with a project for a new kind of savings and loan cooperative that would enable the working class to become their own banker.

At his home in Lévis, across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City, he met with a small group of fellow citizens and presented his idea for a Caisse Populaire – a people’s bank. On December 6, 1900, they opened their doors for the first time.

The goals that Alphonse Desjardins set were lofty, but his commitment was strong. Among many objectives, Desjardins wanted:

  • To pool savings and provide for unplanned life events such as unemployment and illness.
  • To use those savings to create a system of credit, accessible to the workers, to farmers and to any honest hard-working person.
  • To put an end to unfair lending practices.

Over one hundred years later, these same ideals still motivate everyone at Desjardins Group.

[1] As of December 31, 2016
[2] Bloomberg’s list of World’s Strongest Banks 2015
[3] Information as at December 31, 2016.