Matt Hands, VP, Insurance and MoneySense
Desjardins Group, or Mouvement Desjardins in French, is unique among Canadian banks. They are what's called a cooperative credit union, rather than a single bank (that said, it more or less operates in the same way as any major bank). The group consists of around 300 local credit unions, which collectively operate over 1,000 locations for over 7 million clients.
It's not one of the five big Canadian banks (RBC, BMO, TD Bank, CIBC, and Scotiabank), however, Desjardins Group is in a relatively close sixth place when measured by assets, with around half those of CIBC.
Desjardins' main business is retail banking. It has over 20 subsidiary companies offering a range of services, including real estate, venture capital, brokerage, and of course, life insurance.
Desjardins Insurance is the umbrella banner of Desjardins’ two insurance arms. Desjardins General Insurance offers P&C Insurance, including home insurance and auto insurance, while Desjardins Financial Security sells life and health insurance.
Desjardins insurance arm grew significantly when it purchased the Canadian operations of the US insurance giant State Farm. The State Farm Canada brand was continued for several years but has been phased out, with policies converted to Desjardins policies in 2019.
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Desjardins Financial Security is the division of Desjardins Insurance that sells life insurance, and it’s a very well-established business. As a result, the range of Desjardins life insurance products is up there with the big three life insurance providers with regard to consumer choice.
Desjardins term life insurance is well featured, offering 10, 20, or 30-year terms. A maximum insurable age of 75 is respectable but lower than some other life insurance companies. Desjardins term life insurance policies are renewable and convertible to any of their permanent policies. Desjardins term insurance is by no means the most flexible out there (that prize goes to RBC life insurance) but it’s still a great product with lots of options.
Desjardins permanent insurance comes in three varieties: Basic, Personalized, and Participating. Basic is a type of simplified life insurance for 50-75 years olds, for up to $20,000 - you could also consider it a kind of funeral insurance. It doesn’t require a medical, but there are several medical eligibility questions. The Personalized product is essentially a term-to-100 life insurance policy. Joint coverage is available, but with only a joint-second-to-die option.
Desjardins participating life insurance is a strong participating whole life insurance policy, with plenty of flexibility. You have the choice of steady ongoing or accelerated premiums, as well as the option of an increasing or steady death benefit. It’s a no-frills plan, but that’s not always a bad thing.
Desjardins universal life insurance provides the most flexibility a whole life insurance policy can offer. universal life insurance combines your life insurance policy with a tax-advantaged savings account, with the flexibility to choose from over 30 of Desjardin’s investment options. While Desjardins universal coverage doesn’t offer as many options as Sun Life, Great West Life, or Manulife life insurance, it’s a good product, that isn’t common offered by bank-owned life insurance companies.
Some of the oldest banks in Canada are over 200 years old, making Desjardins a spring chicken at ~120 years old. Alphonse Desjardins founded Caisse populaire de Lévis in 1901 in Lévis, just south of Quebec City. The group was his attempt to create a more supportive financial institution that didn’t exploit its members, which he believed was being done by banks at the time. While it wasn’t the first cooperative in North America, it was the first savings and credit cooperative on the continent.
In 1908, Desjardins founded his first caisse (cooperative) in the US, and his first in Ontario in 1912. By the time of his death in 1920, he has opened 136 caisses in Quebec, 19 in Ontario and 9 in the US.
Over the following decades, the group became more federalized. Initially, individual caisses formed union régionales, or regional credit unions. In 1932, a central federation was formed to support the caisses, and to qualify for government support through the depression. This federation would eventually become the umbrella Desjardins Group we know today, but it was known as the somewhat inefficient title of Fédération de Québec des unions régionales de caisses populaires Desjardins.
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Desjardins life insurance pros
- A strong suite of life insurance products, especially when compared to other bank-owned life insurance companies
- Desjardins universal life insurance is one of the easier to understand universal policies
Desjardins life insurance cons
- A lower maximum insurable age than other life insurance companies
- The Desjardins universal life insurance policy may not provide enough flexibility for some people
Desjardins Group generally receives strong credit ratings, although they are one of the only major life insurance providers so have a negative outlook from Moody’s:
- Standard and Poor’s: A+ (Very strong)
- Moody’s: AA1 (High quality) - Negative outlook
- DBRS: AA (Excellent)
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Matt Hands, Business Director of Insurance
With 6+ years of experience at Ratehub.ca, Matt’s focus has been on growing its newest business unit, Insurance. He is a thought leader and a valuable resource to respected publications across Canada. read full bio