At the end of the 19th century, banks would do business with rich people only. Farmers and plant workers couldn’t borrow money from banks. They had to borrow from lenders who would charge them very high interest rates. Less fortunate Quebeckers were getting deeper into debt and were kept living in very poor conditions.
Alphonse Desjardins sought a solution to the situation by looking at what was being done in other countries. He found out about the existence of people’s banks and rural credit unions in Europe. Seeking more information, he contacted Henry W. Wolff who had written a book on this topic. Through is correspondence with Mr. Wolff, Alphonse Desjardins developed a new model of savings and credit cooperative that was managed by its members. This allowed farmers and workers to become member-owners of their financial institution and to manage their money under their own terms.
The 1st caisse opened its doors on January 23, 1901 in Alphonse Desjardins’s house, in Lévis. On that day, deposits totalled $26.40.
More than a 100 years later
Today, the Caisses populaires have more than 1,400 service branches in Quebec and Ontario.