Desjardins Group presidents

The role of president has evolved with time. Until the end of the 1960s, the president of the provincial Fédération was the president of the Board of Directors, but daily management rested in the hands of general manager Cyrille Vaillancourt. The position of president and chairman of the board of Desjardins Group as it stands today was held for the first time in 1972 by Alfred Rouleau.

"Among all the public service positions a citizen may hold in Quebec," wrote journalist Claude Turcotte in the newspaper Le Devoir in 1986, "there are few more important or prestigious as that of the president of [Fédération des caisses Desjardins], a Group playing an increasingly important role in Quebec economic activity while maintaining a moral, social and political authority in its broadest sense." Here is a brief overview of the life and work of those who presided over the destiny of Desjardins Group.

President of Fédération de Québec des unions régionales de caisses populaires Desjardins from 1932 to 1936

The son of a physician and member of Parliament, Cyrille Vaillancourt was born in Saint-Anselme on January 17, 1892. He completed the commercial and classical courses at Collège de Lévis and started his career in the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture where he was put in charge of beekeeping in 1917. To promote the beekeeping and maple industries, which he was also put in charge of a few years later, he founded Société coopérative des apiculteurs and Société coopérative des producteurs de sucre d'érable, which he managed until he died.

In 1924, Cyrille Vaillancourt joined the Board of Directors of L'Union régionale de Québec and became president 2 years later. At the end of the decade, he was elected administrator of Caisse populaire de Lévis. After playing a leading role in the creation of Fédération de Québec des unions régionales in 1932, he was elected president and managing director. He stepped down as president 4 years later but remained managing director until 1969.

With little means, Cyrille Vaillancourt built a new institution that grouped together all the caisse populaires Unions régionales. Eloquent, with good organizational sense and boundless energy, he worked to create the unity of Desjardins Group. To this end, he created the magazine La Caisse populaire Desjardins in 1935, which became Revue Desjardins 6 years later. He also reached an agreement with the Canadian Bankers' Association for cheque clearing, which up until then had been a complex and costly task for the caisses. In the 1940s, he found himself at the centre of debates on the division of responsibility, denominationalism and the autonomy of caisses populaires.

Cyrille Vaillancourt also worked to create bonds between the caisses populaires and the wider cooperative movement. In 1939, he helped create Conseil supérieur de la cooperation (today Conseil québécois de la coopération et de la mutualité). In the years that followed, he came in contact with Canadian and American credit unions. As a result, 2 international conventions were held in Lévis: one in 1950, for the 50th anniversary of Caisse populaire de Lévis, and the other in 1957, for the 25th anniversary of the provincial Fédération.

The primary spokesperson for Desjardins Group until the late 1960s, Cyrille Vaillancourt was one of the key players in each major event that took place in the caisse populaire universe. He played an active role in establishing Société d'assurance des caisses populaires (today Desjardins General Insurance Group) in 1944, and Assurance-vie Desjardins (today Desjardins Financial Security) in 1948. In the 1960s, he helped found or acquire several institutions including La Sauvegarde, La Sécurité, Société de fiducie du Québec and Institut coopératif Desjardins. The figurehead of Desjardins Group for 4 decades, he is considered the "second founder of caisses populaires" by his contemporaries.

Cyrille Vaillancourt devoted his life to caisses populaires while being involved in other areas. He joined the Legislative Council of Quebec in 1943 and the Senate of Canada the following year, where he held office until 1969. He was also known for his work in philanthropy. He was president of numerous organizations including Société Saint-Vincent-de-Paul de Lévis from 1932 to 1962. Deeply commitment to his adopted city, Cyrille Vaillancourt was in large part responsible for the fact that the head office of Desjardins Group is now located in Lévis. In increasingly frail health, he relinquished most of his duties over the course of 1969. He died on October 30, 1969.

Eugène Poirier

President of Fédération de Québec des unions régionales de caisses populaires Desjardins from 1936 to 1944

Eugène Poirier was born in Saint-Aimé on the shores of the Yamaska River in 1891. He studied at Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe, and then Université de Montréal before becoming a notary in 1913.

5 years later, he was one of the founders of Caisse populaire de Sainte-Cécile. He sat on the Board of Directors and was elected president. He was delegated by the cooperative to help found Union régionale des caisses populaires Desjardins de Montréal in 1924, of which he became an administrator 2 years later and president from 1930 to 1945.

Convinced of the need to establish a caisse verification department, he was one of the founders of Fédération de Québec in 1932. A close ally of Union nationale led by Maurice Duplessis, Eugène Poirier became president of the Fédération after the 1936 provincial elections that led the party to power. His friend and colleague Cyrille Vaillancourt, a Liberal party sympathizer, gave up his seat to him to facilitate relations with the new government.

Historian Pierre Poulin explains why Eugène Poirier worked in tandem with Wilfrid Guérin, also a notary and manager of Caisse populaire de l'Immaculée-Conception. With a strong presence and public relations skills the former played the role of spokesperson, while the latter played the role of mastermind. Together, they led, from the start of the 1940s, a protest movement against Fédération policies, primarily regarding the denominationalism of caisses and relations with cooperators in English Canada. In their opinion, it was crucial that caisses populaires remain Catholic and French-Canadian.

Unable to impose his point of view, Eugène Poirier left his post as Fédération president in 1944 and campaigned to have Union régionale de Montréal withdraw from it. His work resulted in the separation of 8 caisses that went on to form Fédération de Montréal des caisses Desjardins and were soon joined by a 9th member. The organization over which he presided until his death in the fall of 1960 would return to Desjardins Group on 1982.

It was also with Wilfrid Guérin that he drafted legislation that led to the creation of Office du crédit agricole in 1936. He left the notarial profession to manage the Office, of which he was appointed president by Premier Maurice Duplessis. In addition to the 40 years devoted to caisses populaires, Eugène Poirier also made a name for himself for his social involvement. He was president of Service provincial de l'habitation familiale, sat on the Board of Directors of the insurance company Alliance, was a regent of Université de Montréal, a member of the Instruction publique committee, and more.

"In the pursuit of its goal and exercise of its operations, the caisse will call upon your intelligence, your heart and your soul." Eugène Poirier, Journée de l'épargne, January 26, 1936.

Laurent Létourneau

President of Fédération de Québec des unions régionales de caisses populaires Desjardins from 1944 to 1955

The son of a merchant, Laurent Létourneau was born in Quebec City in 1880. Trained as an accountant, he graduated from Académie commerciale de Québec and became a fellow of the Canadian Bankers' Association. He began his career in 1899 as manager of the Saint-Casimir Branch of National Bank, and later the Trois-Rivières Branch.

Laurent Létourneau left National Bank following its merger with Hochelaga Bank in 1924. At the same time, he was offered the position of general manager of Union régionale de Trois-Rivières, which he held until 1955. Upon his arrival in the world of caisses populaires, he was introduced as a "banker who converted to cooperation". His knowledge and years of experience in banking were undeniable assets that were much appreciated in the various positions he held throughout his career.

Laurent Létourneau came onto the Board of Directors of Caisse populaire de Trois-Rivières in 1929, and became chairman 11 years later, a position he held until he died. He also worked as inspector of caisse populaires for the provincial Fédération when it was founded in 1932. He joined the Board of Directors in 1841 and was elected vice-president, taking over Eugène Poirier's role as president 3 years later.

When he took leadership of the Fédération in 1944, the caisse network was in full expansion. The Great Depression had led several communities to open a caisse populaire. Moreover, restrictions imposed during World War II (1939-1945) had greatly favoured savings. However, with the end of the war, many feared a mass withdrawal of funds on deposit in financial institutions. Skilful, charismatic, tough-minded and pragmatic, Laurent Létourneau took the necessary means to consolidate the caisse movement. In 1949, a security fund was established to help struggling but viable caisses restore their financial position and avoid closure.

Laurent Létourneau was also a key player in founding the first subsidiaries. In 1944, he was founding president of Société d'assurance des caisses populaires (now Desjardins General Insurance Group). In 1948, he was also appointed vice-president of a second subsidiary, Assurance-vie Desjardins (today Desjardins Financial Security).

Like his predecessors, his involvement in caisses populaires went hand in hand with a high degree of social commitment. He worked in several community organizations in the Trois-Rivières area. Laurent Létourneau had devoted over 30 years of his life to the savings and credit cooperative when he died on November 13, 1955.

"The idea of working together for the good of a common effort is an excellent one. […] We must be ready to evolve, if necessary, to meet the needs of our times."
- Laurent Létourneau, caisses populaires convention of 1952

Abel Marion

President of Fédération de Québec des unions régionales de caisses populaires Desjardins from 1956 to 1959

Born in 1885 in Colebrooke, New Hampshire, probably in a Franco-American community made up of French Canadian immigrants, Abel Marion was baptized in Paquetteville. He returned to Canada with his parents at age 7. After graduating from Collège Saint-Henri and Collège Saint-Sulpice in Montreal, he settled down in Sainte-Edwidge in the Eastern Townships around 1905. He held a variety of jobs, but was first and foremost a farmer.

Very involved in his parish, of which he was mayor, he founded Société coopérative agricole de Sainte-Edwidge in 1914 and was its first general manager. He also played a pioneering role when he founded a caisse populaire in his area in 1933, which he then managed for nearly 15 years. The following year, Abel Marion continued to pioneer the way and helped create Union régionale de Sherbrooke, of which he was president until 1959. The position in the new union came with a seat on the Board of Directors of the Fédération.

A man of the earth, Abel Marion made a name for himself primarily in the farming community. He was named vice-president of Union catholique des cultivateurs (UCC) in 1930, and president 6 years later, a position he would hold until 1954. A diplomat and skilful strategist with a cautious temperament, he was held in high regard by the government in his role as UCC president. After the election of Union Nationale in 1936, he had nearly unrestricted access to Quebec premier Maurice Duplessis. He played a role in the adoption of the farm credit act drafted by Eugène Poirier and Wilfrid Guérin. He was also on the 1955 Héon Commission on farming problems. His involvement in the farming community extended beyond Quebec's borders. He was a longtime vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

In 1944, he became vice-president of the provincial Fédération. He was also one of the first administrators of Société d'assurances des caisses populaires, today Desjardins General Insurance Group. In 1956, he took over for Laurent Létourneau, who died in office, as president of the Fédération.

In 1959, at the age of 74, Abel Marion resigned as president of Fédération de Québec des unions régionales, only 3 years after his appointment. Due to failing health, he was also forced him to leave his position as the head of Union régionale de Sherbrooke. Although he did not hold the position for long, he symbolizes the close collaboration between caisses populaires and the rural world. After a life marked by involvement in a multitude of organizations, he died on February 15, 1970.

"Needless to say, it is not at all easy to tear myself away from an organization I have always cared about and that I will always consider as the best, both from the point of view of an organization as for its services rendered." Abel Marion in his letter of resignation of May 27, 1959.

President of Fédération de Québec des unions régionales de caisses populaires Desjardins from 1959 to 1972

Émile Girardin was born in a family of farmers in Yamachiche on November 28, 1895. From 1909 to 1913, he attended Séminaire de Trois-Rivières and École normale Jacques-Cartier in Montreal. He taught in various schools in Montreal for 10 years, after which he worked as school principal until 1939. He then went to work for Commission des écoles catholiques de Montréal (CECM) where he held various positions until he retired from education in 1960. His long career is all the more remarkable when his deep and lasting involvement in the development of caisses populaires is considered. His work as a cooperator was inextricably linked to his profession as an educator.

In 1919, he helped found Caisse populaire de Sainte-Clothilde and became its general manager while still under the age of 25. He managed the cooperative for 15 years. In 1922, he served at Bureau central d'inspection et de surveillance des caisses populaires de Montréal, a temporary organization with no legal status that preceded the creation of the Montreal Union régionale in 1924. He became administrator of the Union régionale in 1926, and then general manager in 1935, a position he held for nearly 3 decades. He played an active role in the establishment of Caisse centrale Desjardins in Montreal the following year, and was its general manager until 1944.

The school caisses were one of the major links between his 2 careers as educator and cooperator. In 1949, he was put in charge by CECM of organizing student savings. Inspired by a model he saw in Cleveland, in the U.S., he designed a plan to relaunch school caisses based on greater participation by schoolchildren in its operations. The new format gave powerful impetus to penny savings both in Montreal and throughout Quebec.

Émile Girardin became president of Union régionale de Montréal in 1954 and a member of the Board of Directors of the provincial Fédération, of which he became vice-president the following year. He was also an administrator of Assurance-vie Desjardins, today Desjardins Financial Security. In 1959, he became the fifth president of Fédération de Québec des unions régionales.

With general manager of the Fédération Cyrille Vaillancourt, with whom he shared a sense of caution and a respect for traditional values, Émile Girardin set Desjardins Group on a path of modernization and adaptation to the changes of the 1960s. For example, in the course of a democratic process involving caisse officers and in response to the request of some members and social stakeholders, caisses populaires began offering consumer credit.

During the same period, a genuine financial complex was established through a series of acquisitions including La Sauvegarde, a life insurance company, Société de fiducie du Québec, and La Sécurité, a general insurance company. Institut coopératif Desjardins, a residential centre specializing in adult education, was founded in 1963 based on an idea by Émile Girardin.

During the 1967 World's Fair in Montreal, Émile Girardin presided over Caisse populaire Desjardins de l'Expo 67. The caisse was linked to a computer that remotely processed transactions automatically, a first in the Canadian banking industry and the introduction of caisse computerization. A remote data processing system was extended to the entire network starting in 1970.

Émile Girardin stepped down as president of Union régionale de Montréal in 1971 and from Fédération de Québec the following year. He died in Montreal on March 20, 1982.

President of Desjardins Group from 1972 to 1981

Alfred Rouleau was born in Sherbrooke on August 19, 1915 and grew up in Quebec City in a working class neighbourhood. His studies cut short by the Great Depression, he held precarious jobs. A few years later, he took a course on cooperation from Father Georges-Henri Lévesque at Université Laval. He was, to repeat the words of historian Guy Bélanger, "a self-taught man who grew to become a president". In 1943, he helped found Caisse populaire de Notre-Dame-du-Chemin in Quebec City. Hired the same year as a representative of La Laurentienne, a life insurance company, he was made manager of the Montréal-Richelieu regional office 2 years later. He was very involved in Catholic action movements and was elected president of Fédération des mouvements de jeunesse du Québec in 1948.

During the same year, Assurance-vie Desjardins (AVD), now Desjardins Financial Security, was founded. Alfred Rouleau was made manager at age 33. From his arrival, he saw a bright future for the budding institution. His team was small, but young and dynamic. In 1955, he expanded AVD operations into the rest of Canada to serve French-speaking people. He obtained a permit to operate in Ontario and New Brunswick, and in 1959, a federal charter to offer services in Western Canada.

An energetic and visionary builder, he orchestrated a multitude of projects. From 1958 to 1969, AVD sponsors educational programming on Radio-Canada (the CBC's French-language channel), including the popular family budgeting program Joindre les deux bouts. At the end of the 1950s, he came up with the idea of Cité des Jardins" a development that would serve both residential and administrative purposes. His project gave rise to Cité Desjardins de la coopération which currently houses the head offices of Desjardins Group in Lévis. From the early 1960s, he was also behind the Complexe Desjardins project in Montreal, which was completed under his direction in 1976. Alfred Rouleau actively contributed to the modernization and development of the subsidiary network. Desjardins Group's first acquisition, La Sauvegarde, was made at his initiative. He was president of the company while continuing to play a key role in founding and acquiring other companies in the 1960s.

In 1971, the National Assembly of Québec passed a law that redefined the framework of Desjardins Group. The Fédération became the coordinating body of Desjardins Group and subsidiaries could now sit on its Board of Directors. It also created the position of Desjardins Group President. On April 27, 1972, Alfred Rouleau became the first full-time president of Desjardins Group.

His term at the head of Desjardins Group coincided with a period of remarkable growth. Recognized for seeking consensus and for his determination once decisions were made, Alfred Rouleau worked toward consolidation and getting the caisses to take a greater role in the economic development of Quebec. Société d'investissement Desjardins, today Desjardins Venture Capital, which worked in the field of industrial and commercial loans, launched its activities in 1974. Caisse Centrale Desjardins, the financial arm of Desjardins Group that Alphonse Desjardins had dreamed of, was established in 1979 and headed by Alfred Rouleau. The same year, Fédération des caisses d'économie du Québec joined Desjardins Group. According to his successor Raymond Blais, Alfred Rouleau "gave people at Desjardins a good dose of pride".

With his background as a Catholic action militant, he chaired Conseil de la coopération (today Conseil québécois de la coopération et de la mutualité), was a member of the Economic Council of Canada, the Canadian Council on Social Development and the International Cooperative Alliance Central Committee in the 1960s and early 1970s. He ran for office in the federal elections of 1944 under the Bloc populaire banner, but was not politically active after that, despite numerous invitations. His reputation, however, gave Desjardins Group a good deal of clout in the great social debates of the 1970s.

Alfred Rouleau had to leave his position in 1981. He went on to become consulting director of a large accounting firm. He died in Montreal on October 19, 1985.

President of Desjardins Group from 1981 to 1986

The son of a merchant, Raymond Blais was born in Saint-Patrice de Beaurivage in Lotbinière in 1934. After graduating from Collège Sacré-Cœur de Victoriaville, he obtained a bachelor's degree in administration from Université Laval, followed by a master's degree in commerce. He became a member of Ordre des comptables agréés and worked as a financial controller before teaching at Université Laval.

His teaching experience was not unrelated to his going to work for the Educational Department of the provincial Fédération in 1968. His first years at Desjardins Group were spent at Institut coopératif Desjardins. In 1970, he became manager of Fédération Technical Services and played a key role in implementing the Système intégré des caisses (SIC), which marked the start of the use of information technology in the caisse network. 3 years later, Union régionale de Québec invited him to become general manager. In so doing, he sat on various Desjardins Group boards of directors, including Fédération and Crédit industriel Desjardins, of which he became president in 1978.

Wishing to create conditions leading to greater cohesion and better synergy, Raymond Blais chaired, as of the summer of 1977, a committee tasked with studying the responsibilities and areas of jurisdiction of Unions régionales, subsidiaries and the provincial Fédération. Pursuing discussions already in progress that would result in the reorganization of the end of the 1990s, the "Rapport Blais" was delivered in June 1979. It recommended a change of attitude rather than a formal redefinition of relationships. The study was one of Blais's primary sources of inspiration when be became president.

Elected president of Desjardins Group on January 20, 1981, Raymond Blais took over for Alfred Rouleau during difficult economic times. The recession underway was then considered the worst one since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Several caisses were deeply affected. The beginning of his term was marked by an increasing number of obstacles, but also by many achievements.

From the summer of 1981 on, a Visa franchise and operations were purchased from a Canadian bank. The following fall, Caisse centrale Desjardins, founded 2 years earlier, officially began operations. In 1982, the SIC was completely revamped, showing the president's profound belief in the importance of new technology. During the same year, Fédération de Montréal, created in 1945, was brought into Desjardins Group. Against the background of the recession, Desjardins Group actively participated in 2 Quebec government housing programs: Loginove, in the area of renovations, and Corvée-habitation to promote the construction of new housing.

Under Raymond Blais's leadership, Desjardins Group assets doubled, management systems became more stringent and capitalization was strengthened. The group's financial performance went hand in hand with a strong cooperative identity. The president called a convention in 1986 on Desjardins Group's permanent values: money at the service of human development, personal commitment, democratic action, integrity and rigour within the cooperative organization and solidarity with the community. Health problems, however, prevented him from being able to attend.

A tough, demanding manager with a big heart, he was involved in a multitude of local and international organizations. Particularly sensitive to the fate of young people, he became involved with Sommet québécois de la jeunesse in 1983 and Année internationale de la jeunesse 2 years later. In addition to his social commitments, his love of theatre led him to hold a seat on the Board of Directors of Théâtre du Trident in Quebec City in 1984.

Health problems led him to take the role assistant manager to Claude Béland in February 1986. Deteriorating health forced him to resign in December of 1986. He died on May 3, 1987, in Lévis, at the age of 52.

President of Desjardins Group from 1987 to 2000

Claude Béland was born in Montreal on January 25, 1932. He was the son of Benjamin Béland, an entrepreneur who was very involved in caisses populaires and president of Union régionale de Montréal in the early 1950s. Claude Béland attended Collège Brébeuf and then studied law at Université de Montréal between 1952 and 1956. Admitted to the Bar, he worked in a private law firm, specializing in the rights of cooperative organizations.

Pro bono legal counsel to Fédération des caisses d'économie du Québec from its creation in 1962, he became the head of legal services in 1971. Claude Béland became general manager of Fédération des caisses d'économie du Québec 8 years later, and was designated to negotiate a shared services agreement with Desjardins Group. With caisses d'économies now at a crossroads, negotiations led to Fédération des caisses d'économie du Québec joining Desjardins Group in 1979. Unions régionales des caisses populaires Desjardins now became federations and the provincial Fédération now became Confédération des caisses populaires et d'économie Desjardins du Québec.

The new member of Desjardins Group was entitled to a seat on the Board of Directors of the Confédération and Claude Béland was awarded the seat. This meant that he was now also on the boards of various subsidiaries, including Desjardins General Insurance Goup, as well as being president of Corporation Desjardins de traitement informatique.

In February 1986, Raymond Blais named Claude Béland Assistant Director to the President. His role was to represent the president of Desjardins Group and speak in his name. This prepared him well for the role of president, to which he was elected less than a year later in 1987. The beginning of his term was marked notably by the reform of the Savings and Credit Unions Act and Fédération des caisses populaires de l'Ontario, Fédération des caisses populaires du Manitoba and Fédération des caisses populaires de l'Acadie joining the Confédération as auxiliary members.

During this period, a deregulation of financial institutions began to take shape, creating new business opportunities. Caisses were gradually transformed from transactional to relational units. For example, caisses could now make direct insurance sales, without having to go through a broker. Desjardins Group began selling securities in 1988. Caisse centrale Desjardins launched Desjardins Federal Savings Bank in Florida. Many acquisitions took place, the largest one being the bulk of Corporation du Groupe La Laurentienne activities in 1993.

In the meantime, the matter of Desjardins Group structures and shared responsibility, to which Raymond Blais had given thought, became a pressing issue. Under the leadership of Claude Béland, a caisse reengineering program was launched, as well as a reconfiguration of the caisse distribution network and a structural reorganization of the Confédération. From 1996 to 1999, the democratic and decisional structure was revised in caisses and in Desjardins Group as a whole. Among the changes that arose and inspired much debate was, in 2001, going from a 3-tiered structure (caisses populaires, federations and the Confédération) to a 2-tiered structure (caisses populaires and a federation). The 10 Fédérations régionales des caisses, the Fédération des caisses par secteur d'activité, and Confédération were brought together into Fédération des caisses Desjardins, a more agile organization better adapted to the challenges of the future.

Claude Béland was a major player in the social debates of the 1990s. He presided over Forum pour l'emploi, sat on Commission Bélanger-Campeau on the political and constitutional future of Quebec and founded the Qualité-Québec campaign. After 3 terms at the head of Desjardins Group totalling 13 years of service, he retired in 2000.

President of Desjardins Group from 2000 to 2008

Born on July 9, 1940, in the Bas-Saint-Laurent area, Alban D'Amours earned a bachelor's degree in social sciences and a master's degree in economics from Université Laval. He then went on to do a Ph.D. in public finance, monetary theory and econometrics at the University of Minnesota. He briefly taught at that institution, and then at Université de Sherbrooke until 1981. He was head of the economics department and helped create Institut de recherche sur les coopératives (IRECUS). Alban D'Amours then made the move to public service. He was deputy minister of Revenu du Québec from 1981 to 1986, then associate deputy minister of energy the following year. During this period he was administrator, then president of Caisse populaire des fonctionnaires du Québec.

Alban D'Amours joined Desjardins Group in 1988. He first served as senior vice-president of Planning, Communications and Marketing and then, as of 1991, as senior vice-president and chief of Development and Audit. To reinforce the independence of inspection and audit, the Desjardins Bureau for Financial Monitoring and Enforcement was created in 1994. Alban D'Amours then became Inspector and Auditor General for Desjardins Group.

Alban D'Amours was elected president on February 19, 2000, by an enlarged electoral college made up of 240 delegated officers. Before this time, members of the Board of Directors of the Confédération elected the president among themselves, which limited the number of candidates and electors.

Alban D'Amours was described as a diplomat, a skilled and subtle negotiator with an ability to listen. He was perceived as the candidate best able to unite caisses to successfully complete the shift begun by his predecessor. A new federation created by the merger of the 10 Fédérations régionales des caisses, the Fédération des caisses par secteur d'activité and the Confédération was quickly put in place. The transition, which was expected to take place over a 3- to 5-year period, was carried out in 1 and a half years.

In March 2003, after a broad consultation, he called a convention on the subject of cooperative renewal. He also stressed the topics of business development, productivity and profitability, the objectives of the 2000 reorganization. Mobilization and skills development were also of primary concern to him. His years at the head of Desjardins Group were marked by a greater willingness to develop the Canadian market through acquisitions such as The Personal, a Canadian insurance company, in 2000.

Alban D'Amours served on the board of a multitude of organizations before, during and after his tenure as leader of Desjardins Group. He presided over Commission gouvernementale sur l'énergie, Commission sur la fiscalité et le financement des services publics, the Forest Summit of 2007 and the Board of Directors of Téléuniversité from 1992 to 1998. A music lover, he was president of the Board of Directors of Violons du Roy, a Quebec baroque ensemble, in the early 1990s. He was also active on the international scene by representing the Canadian cooperative movement on the Board of Directors of the International Cooperative Alliance from 2005 to 2009, during which time he also presided over a special sub-committee on the restructuring of the organization. In 2009, he became president of the International Confederation of Popular Banks.

After 2 4-year terms, Alban D'Amours stepped down from his role as president of Desjardins Group in March 2008.

Chair of the Board, President and CEO of Desjardins Group from 2008 to 2016

Monique F. Leroux was born in Montreal on August 11, 1954. After studying piano at the Conservatoire de musique et d’art dramatique du Québec (Quebec conservatory of music and dramatic arts), she earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from University of Quebec at Chicoutimi and the professional designations of Chartered Accountant (CA) and Chartered Management Accountant (CMA). She later became a fellow of both these professional associations for her contribution to promoting the accounting profession.

Monique F. Leroux was hired by the auditing firm Ernst & Young in the summer of 1978 and became a partner 10 years later. In 1993, she was the first woman to be president of the Ordre des comptables agréés du Québec (Quebec order of chartered accountants). After 17 years of service at Ernst & Young, she joined Royal Bank in 1995, first as Senior Vice-President of Finance and then as Senior Vice-President of the Quebec Division. Following that she became Senior Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer of Québecor.

In 2001, Monique F. Leroux was named president of Desjardins-Laurentian Financial Corporation, today Desjardins Financial Corporation, and CEO of its subsidiaries. During her term, she helped significantly improve the overall performance of the company and its subsidiaries. In 2004, she became CFO of Desjardins Group and established an organization-wide financial governance process.

Monique F. Leroux was elected president of Desjardins Group on March 15, 2008. She became a pioneer as the first woman to ever head a Canadian financial institution. She started her term during an economic crisis that was considered the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s. In the years that followed, careful attention to the organization’s capitalization would earn Desjardins Group a second place in Bloomberg’s 2014 ranking of the World’s Strongest Banks.

In the spring of 2009, Monique F. Leroux reviewed Desjardins Group’s organizational structure to better consolidate its strengths and improve productivity. This move reinforced the organization’s capacity to invest in areas like technology. Ms. Leroux also worked to help Desjardins Group grow through acquisitions and initiatives with cooperative partners in Canada and the rest of the world, including French cooperative Crédit Mutuel. The acquisitions of Western Financial Group in 2011 and the Canadian operations of State Farm in 2014 are without a doubt among the high points in her terms as president.

On January 31, 2012, Monique F. Leroux was re-elected by acclamation. Her second term as president began during the UN-decreed International Year of Cooperatives. To mark the occasion, she created the International Summit of Cooperatives, held for the first time in October 2012 in Quebec City. Subsequent summits were held in 2014 and 2016, each attended by an average of 3,000 people from 90 countries.

While president, Monique F. Leroux published 3 books: an annotated collection of quotes by Alphonse Desjardins and other important figures in Desjardins Group’s history, a book of interviews with key players in the local and international cooperative movement, and her autobiography, titled Ma vie en Mouvement.

In 2012, Monique F. Leroux became president of the Conseil québécois de la coopération et de la mutualité (Quebec council of cooperatives and mutuals). Three years later, she became the first North American to be elected as president of the International Co-operative Alliance. She sits on boards and committees for many organizations and chairs the board of Investissement Québec.

After serving 2 4-year terms at the head of Desjardins Group, she completed her mandate in April 2016.