Access to property must become a social issue, says the boss of Desjardins

Guy Cormier, President of Desjardins Group (Photo: The Canadian Press)

It’s time to make accessibility to property a social issue, believes the President and CEO of Desjardins Group, Guy Cormier. He fears that the increase in residential real estate and housing prices is creating an inequity between generations.

The supply is insufficient in the market to meet household demand, he explains in an interview on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the Mouvement Desjardins, which took place in Quebec City on Saturday. “It is clear, at the moment, that there is a lack of places. There is a lack of number of residences. There is a shortage of accommodation. That’s clear. It’s documented. »

Last fall, the Association of Construction and Housing Professionals of Quebec (APCHQ) estimated that there was a shortage of between 40,000 and 60,000 housing units in Quebec.

We must find a way to build more housing, believes the big boss of the Mouvement Desjardins. “We will have to promote construction even more actively, always with respect for the environment and sustainable development, but we will have to promote the construction of new places where people will be able to live. »

Desjardins Group wants to help increase supply in the market by investing “hundreds of millions” in social housing, he adds. The cooperative also conducts discussions with the various levels of government to carry out certain projects.

Several challenges for young people

Finding affordable housing is not the only challenge facing young people, worries Guy Cormier, who devoted a good part of his speech to intergenerational equity.

“Climate change, so far, it must be said, the decisions and actions that have been taken have clearly not been up to the challenges, the real threat that we have before us,” he said. he warned, during his speech. There is the aging of the population. Yes, that too concerns young people because they will be a lot less likely to pay and assume the rise in health costs. »

In an interview and in his speech, Guy Cormier also mentioned the war in Ukraine, which is bringing additional geopolitical insecurity. The state of public finances that the youngest taxpayers will inherit and the quality of road infrastructure.

Have we arrived at the time when the next generations will find themselves in a worse position than the previous one? “I don’t think we’ve reached that tipping point, but I think the generation in charge really needs to include a youth benefit in these thoughts,” he replies. You can’t just make decisions for the next quarter or the next fiscal year. »

Technology investments

Desjardins Group held its annual meeting in hybrid mode for the first time since the start of the pandemic. More than 500 members were on hand at the Quebec City Convention Center on Saturday. “Obviously everyone had their mask on and there was distancing, but just being able to look each other in the eye? I saw people so happy,” says its president and CEO.

The meeting took place after a favorable year for the cooperative. Nearly 83,000 new members joined its ranks in 2021. Earnings before dividends increased by 21.6%, or 523 million dollars (M$), to reach 2.9 billion dollars (B$), still in 2021.

The year 2022 will be marked by an “acceleration of the pace” in technological projects, said Guy Cormier. Desjardins plans to invest approximately $2 billion in technology annually over the next four to five years.

Cybersecurity will remain a major budget item with an amount of nearly $375 million per year. This is a significant increase from the $100-150 million spent on it before the massive personal data leak of 2019. Nearly 1,200 employees are now working on fraud prevention and detection.

Among the technological projects in the pipeline, Guy Cormier gave the voice recognition system project as an example. “Optional menus: do it one, do 3, do 8, return to the main menu, it’s over at Desjardins,” he told members.

Desjardins is now able to identify its customers by voice, said the manager in an interview. To achieve this, the cooperative recorded more than 5,000 voices to capture the different intonations and accents spoken in Quebec. “People when they call, we’ll just be able to detect through their voice what they’re asking us and we’ll be able to answer them automatically without them having to follow a voice menu. »

The organization is currently testing the system in certain customer contact points. Voice recognition should be deployed for all call centers “within a horizon between 2022 and 2024”.

By Stephane Rolland

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