Canadian coop Desjardins expands (with a little help from the French)

An interesting bit of news comes in from across the Pond:  the Canadian cooperative financial institution Desjardins, a federation of linked cooperative savings banks focused historically in Québec, has done a deal with the US mutual insurer State Farm to buy the latter’s general insurance business in Canada.

This represents a major expansion of Desjardins’ current insurance business and demonstrates how ambitious its CEO Monique Leroux is at the moment in wanting to extend Desjardins’ business reach and influence.  Assuming the deal is given regulatory approval, Desjardins will overtake The Co-operators as the largest general insurance cooperative in Canada (it is already the largest cooperative life insurer).

And there’s another interesting aspect to the deal, and that is that the French company Crédit Mutuel has also been brought into the party. Crédit Mutuel, which already has some small-scale partnership arrangements with Desjardins, is investing 200m Canadian dollars in the business.

Little by little, cooperatives are becoming international in their ways of working.

The news announcement is here.


One thought on “Canadian coop Desjardins expands (with a little help from the French)

  1. This sounds like good news – lets hope they’re not overreaching themselves, or buying a pig in a poke, or losing touch with grassroots members – not that a co-op would do such things of course 😉

    I still have, somewhere, my Caisse Populaire Desjardins pass book from a year spent living and working in northern Quebec twenty or so years ago. A work colleague told me to open an account with the Desjardins credit union because it was a co-operative and reinvested money locally – this in a remote region that was struggling economically. I was impressed to see Desjardins’ presence all over Quebec and in areas of Ontario and maritime Canada that had French-speaking communities, and the huge Desjardins HQ and shopping mall on St Catherine Street in Montreal. There was even, I remember, a Desjardins costume drama on TV, about Alphonse Desjardins and how he took on the might of the anglophone bankers who were believed to discriminate against French speakers, and how he gained the support of the Catholic Church, very powerful in Quebec in those days (early C20).

    There does seem to be a paradox here, that co-operatives, which by definition have open membership and mustn’t discriminate by race, religion &c.(and I’m certainly not suggesting they should discriminate in this way), often seem to flourish where they are able to draw on the loyalty of particular communities that feel economically excluded, like the Mondragon co-ops founded in the Basque Country during the Franco era, or credit unions among Catholics in Northern Ireland. Are there lessons here for us in Britain? Margaret Thatcher and her successors have been very successful in persuading British people to identify with consumer capitalism and the values of the City of London, but with the finance crash and growing inequality that consensus has begun to crack. What deeper loyalties and civil society webs remain for UK co-operators to draw on, and how can we do this without becoming clannish and exclusive?


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