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François Desjardins

Three to four times a year, François Desjardins wheels a cart through his office and offers up Danishes, fruit and coffee. While he likes an opportunity to get out and speak to his employees, it might be that he simply enjoys tasks not usually taken up by trust company presidents.



Mr. Desjardins, who runs B2B Trust, a Laurentian Bank of Canada subsidiary that supplies third-party banking products, has been known to join in on a sales blitz when another set of hands is needed, even moving from his office to a simple cubicle and posting his totals on his wall.



He knows that an operation that deals in billions of dollars in investment products for independent financial advisers can sometimes look like Mother's Day at his father's Montreal-area flower shop, when the whole family joins in - cousins, sisters-in-law and nephews all working together to prepare gift baskets and floral arrangements.

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B2B Trust also has the resources to handle increased client numbers, having needed them since Mr. Desjardins took the top job in 2004. He's known as the "turnaround guy" and certainly earned the title. B2B used to represent a mere 8 per cent of Laurentian's revenue and now, with $9-billion in deposits and $4.5-billion in loans, it accounts for 30 per cent of the bank's totals.



Some of his success came from focusing B2B's efforts on key products and accommodating the needs of its clients, which now number 15,000.



His banking acumen came from the ground up. He began as a customer service rep in 1991 and, as he moved onto higher-ranked positions, he left a trail of innovation in his wake, such as the software still being used today that he helped design for managing his tele-banking employees. Mr. Desjardins became a vice-president at 29, the youngest in the bank's history and, at 35, was also the youngest-ever member of the bank's management committee. While doing all that, he earned a business degree from HEC.



Single and dividing his time between Toronto and Montreal, Mr. Desjardins says his father taught him many lessons, one of them being that you develop an environment where colleagues are there for each other. Being there might mean helping out in a crisis but it can also sometimes mean having your boss standing at the other end of a coffee cart.



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