The largest association of credit unions in North America, Desjardins Group, has announced a CAD $100m development fund to “invest in entrepreneurship, business development and economic and social innovation”.
Announcing the move, chief executive Guy Cormier said possible projects included a co-op focused on providing local services, programmes that meet specialised workforce needs for regional businesses, and entrepreneurship centres.
Projects will be funded through Desjardins’ caisses (credit unions) and business centres, based on their local knowledge.
Mr Cormier said Desjardins aimed to reinforce its role as “as socio-economic leader across Quebec and the key areas in Ontario”, and wanted to connect more with young people. A youth advisory board will be set up, with Desjardins members, elected caisse officers and employees aged 18-35.
“The group will provide input to members of the Desjardins board of directors and to senior managers,” he added. “I have committed to making a rapid shift into the mobile and digital space.
“Desjardins will be asking the youth advisory board members how they envision that shift, what they expect from Desjardins, and how we should foster co-operation in 2016 and in the years to come.
“We are reinventing the way we serve our members, reaching out to youth for example, by offering tailor-made solutions for them in locations close to several university campuses. And we are connecting with new members in new places using other innovative distribution models. Our successful initiatives in Montreal are moving us forward to ensure we keep meeting member’s needs and expectations. We can then adapt what works and export it to other regions.”
Mr Cormier said the business would continue to remain rooted in the communities it serves and seek to create “solutions for sustainable and long-term economic growth”.
He added: “At Desjardins Group, we will be working together as a unified organisation that is people-focused, modern, high-performing and easy to do business with.”
Desjardins is the leading co-operative financial group in Canada, with assets of more than CAD $260bn.