Desjardins has the means to be more generous, concludes a study

Desjardins has the means to be more generous, concludes a ;tude

BETTING DAY

Over-centralized, increasingly disconnected from its members, the Mouvement Desjardins prefers to sit on its billions rather than help the low-income earners for whom it was founded, accuses a study search made public this morning.

“Desjardins was born to fight inequality, not to accommodate it,” said Robert Laplante, director general of the Institute for Research in Contemporary Economics (IREC), during a telephone interview with Le Journal< /em>.

“We wouldn't destabilize Desjardins' portfolio, we wouldn't bring the institution to the ground if we showed greater solidarity with the most disadvantaged,” adds he.

Too cautious?

The IREC's four-part study notes that at more than 20%, Desjardins' capital ratio exceeds those of most of the world's other major financial cooperatives and North American banks. 

This means that Desjardins keeps more money in its coffers to deal with possible risks.

“Small consolation”

L IREC also notes that Desjardins devotes very few resources to its mutual aid funds, which offer microloans to Quebecers struggling with financial difficulties, with the aim of keeping them away from usurious lenders.

“When you look at the total assets of the Mouvement Desjardins [404 billion $], putting in mutual assistance funds that have never lent more than $462,000 a year is like giving yourself a good conscience with crumbs asserts Mr. Laplante.

The sociologist recognizes that Desjardins gives back more to communities than many companies, notably through the Fonds du Grand Mouvement ($250 million over eight years).

“Obviously, we can always see that Desjardins does better than the banks, which do almost nothing, but that is very little consolation, he says. It is in the light of the needs and interests of its members that a cooperative must measure its resources, not those of the competition.

Desjardins has long been torn between its social origins and its temptation to be a full-fledged member of the financial sector. 

Struggling with a decline in traffic, the group has reduced the number of its service centers from 1,122 to 790 from 2015 to 2021, a drop of 30%.

A certain disconnection< /strong>

At the same time, Desjardins' market share fell in two important sectors. They fell from 37% to 18% in personal loans (from 2001 to 2020) and from 37% to 22% in business loans (from 2009 to 2020).

“One of the causes of these relative declines is certainly the weakening of Desjardins's connection with the living forces of Quebec,” says Robert Laplante. 

In brief

  • Desjardins keeps more money in its coffers than other financial institutions
  • Desjardins stands apart by allowing its CEO to preside his advice
  • Desjardins' Mutual Aid Fund program has diverted very few Quebecers from the clutches of usurious lenders
  • Desjardins's market share fell in personal loans and business loans 

A cooperative with deficient democracy 

Democracy is no more than the shadow of what she has already been at Desjardins, deplores the Institute for Research in Contemporary Economics (IREC).

This may be what explains why Guy Cormier was re-elected by acclaim at the head of the Movement in 2019 despite a massive data theft that revealed security flaws in the institution's systems.

“We can certainly be surprised that the debate has been weakly led in the institution in connection with this tragedy”, affirms Robert Laplante, director general of the IREC.

According to him, the abolition of the regional federations of Desjardins, some twenty years ago, greatly contributed to the weakening of democracy within the cooperative.

“Where the cooperative difference can be felt is precisely in the ability to mobilize members around development objectives and that, currently, the authorities allow it less and less because the centralization of decisions places more in addition, the local caisses are faced with a fait accompli,” said Mr. Laplante.

The IREC has also noted that Desjardins is one of the rare financial cooperatives in the world not to have separated the positions Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer. 

In the absence of an independent president, “there is no convergence between the democratic life of the organization and the reality of the management of the company. However, in cooperative life, it is this creative tension that makes it possible to counterbalance the pressures exerted by the competitive environment,” explains Robert Laplante.

Remuneration

The specialist is no more sympathetic towards the compensation of $4.4 million paid to Mr. Cormier for 2021, up 37%. 

“We questions very seriously the appropriateness of granting such large increases to senior executives at a time when young people are less and less able to access property and when the most disadvantaged are caught in the teeth of an inflation that is upsetting their level of life”, he denounces.

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