Mouvement Desjardins began to take shape in 1944 when the collection of caisses populaires, or credit unions, decided to expand their scope by entering the insurance business, initially out of a desire to protect their members against fire, theft, and fraud. Desjardins further expanded throughout the 1960s by acquiring financial services companies in the insurance and the trust sectors.
In the two decades that followed, the Desjardins Group expanded further - through more acquisitions as well as through growth from within. Recognizing the strength of the Desjardins Group, francophone credit unions in Manitoba, Ontario, and Acadia joined the group, helping to propel its total assets to a value of $44 billion in 1990, a figure that was up sharply from $2.5 billion in 1971.
The regional unions became federations in 1979, while the provincial federation became the Confédération. In 1981, the dissident federation created in Montréal in 1945 joined the Fédération des caisses populaires Desjardins de Montréal et de l'Ouest-du-Québec and in 1989 the Fédération des caisses populaires de l'Ontario joined the Mouvement. Following the celebration of the 90th anniversary of the opening of the first caisse populaire, the Desjardins Group set out to re-organize its corporate structure to better suit the conglomerate type of organization it had become, but not before acquiring a majority of the operations of the Laurentian Group in 1994. In 1996, Desjardins moved to streamline organizational and decision-making processes by abolishing the credit committee structure. This was followed in 1999 by a decision by the group's annual congress to merge the systems of federations and Confédération into a single organization.
Today, the Desjardins Group is a diversified financial institution providing investment management, insurance, and asset management services to some 6 million members and clients. The group comprises some 750 credit unions and total assets of $173.5 billion, which are managed by more than 42 000 employees nationwide and more than 6000 elected officers.