Pauline Green to step down as ICA President

Dame Pauline Green announced last night that she is standing down as President of the International Co-operative Alliance. The news, which confirms what had begun to be something of an open secret in the movement, was given to the Co-operative Congress in Birmingham, with Pauline going out of her way to thank British co-operators for their support during her Presidency.

Pauline will continue in post until the ICA’s conference (taking place in Turkey, in November), when she will have completed six years as President. She advised fellow ICA Board members of her decision in a letter three days ago. She leaves two years before the end of her second four-year term, and told Congress that her decision was partly taken following the Co-operative Group’s decision to no longer support financially her position.

Pauline described to Congress her trajectory in the co-operative movement, from early days as a Woodcraft Folk leader to the high-level role she has played, including for example speaking on behalf of the worldwide movement at the UN General Assembly. There is no doubt that she has been an extraordinarily successful leader of the ICA and a powerful advocate for co-operation, giving a status to the position of ICA President which previous incumbents have never before managed to achieve. She can step down secure in the knowledge that the ICA is now in a far stronger position than it was when she first joined the ICA board, at the time when the organisation’s whole future was genuinely in doubt.

She’ll be much missed.

So now we wait to see whether the incoming ICA President, when they are chosen, will be able to match Pauline’s skills and achievements. Interestingly, it’s not at all impossible that she’ll be replaced by another woman. The ICA Board includes two extremely competent women, both from Canada and both from financial co-operatives. Kathy Bardswick is from anglophone Canada, and is currently CEO of the major insurance firm The Co-operators. Monique Leroux comes from the francophone side,and is CEO of Desjardins, the Quebec-based banking and insurance co-operative. Perhaps helpfully for Leroux, Desjardins have of course hosted the two International co-operative Summits (in 2012 and 2014) and are arranging a third next year.

Both Bardswick and Leroux might well welcome the chance to increase their involvement in the global co-operative movement (Leroux’s fixed term as CEO at Desjardins runs out next year). We’ll have to see what transpires.

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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.