Last night a number of credit unions attended an information session by the Desjardin Group. Most of us came to listen to what their IT people had as a banking system. What it turned out to be was a lesson on how a 100 year old co-operative financial system has evolved for its members.
There were presentations by all the component groups (subsidiaries) of the Desjardin Group. Insurance, brokerage, wealth management, payroll services, Visa and IT. Here is a quote from their Web site:
“Desjardins Group is an organization of caisses populaires and caisses d’économie (credit unions). The 516 caisses Desjardins in Québec and Ontario (494 in Quebec and 22 in Ontario1) and their 911 service centres (869 in Quebec and 42 in Ontario1) are assembled under a single federation: the Fédération des caisses Desjardins du Québec.”
This organization has an asset size of $147 billion made up of credit unions from $20 million to a a few over $1 billion. The average size is $170 million. Their whole infrastructure is built to serve the member caisse populaire (credit union). Again and again the co-operative nature of the organization was presented. It was an eye opener.
Why are we becoming aware of Desjardins? In the last few years their members voted to allow other credit unions to participate in the products and services they have developed. The meeting had 93% voting in favour of the motiion. It still is a street fight among themselves in the retail market but there is no discussion as to how fundamental services are to be built and made available.
So when we talk about credit unions individually here is a prime example of where the independent credit unions moved co-operatively to build a system that can compete with the banks. In Quebec the banks are second to credit unions. Sound pretty good doesn’t it. But remember it took some time to get there. Keep them in mind because they are here to stay.