Gary Furtado
Under Gary Furtado's leadership, Navigant Credit Union has become the largest credit union in Rhode Island.

‘Love what you do’

Gary Furtado reflects on 44 years of success at Navigant Credit Union.

August 24, 2022

After 44 years of service to Navigant Credit Union in Central Falls, R.I., Gary Furtado will retire as president/CEO at the $3 billion asset credit union by year’s end.

Furtado spent his entire professional career with Navigant. He joined the credit union, then known as Credit Union Central Falls, as an accountant in 1978 and was named CEO in 1987.

Under his leadership, Navigant grew from a one-branch institution to the state’s largest credit union, serving more than 125,000 members.

Credit Union Magazine: How has the movement changed since you started your career?

Gary Furtado: The credit union model, as well as the banking and financial services sectors at large, certainly looks different today than it did when I started my career in 1978. As for what’s changed, I would point first and foremost to the speed at which we operate. 

Between increased competition in the sector, economic volatility, rapid advancements in the technology we use, and constant changes in consumers’ behavior and preferences, our industry seems to be evolving on a day-to-day basis. 

Navigant and countless other community-based, member-owned credit unions across the country have responded to these demands by changing the way we do business to stay competitive and provide the high-quality, personalized services our members deserve. 

For years, whether fair or unfair, credit unions had the reputation of being stuck in our ways. Today, though, we’re starting to see a great deal more innovative thinking when it comes to the lending products and services we’re offering, and significant investments in assets like digital and mobile banking tools. 

Thanks to these evolutions, I am confident both Navigant and the credit union movement are well-positioned for continued success.

‘Love what you do, never lose sight of why you do it, and treat everybody around you with respect and empathy.’
Gary Furtado

Q: What remains the same since you began?

A: The overarching, community-focused mission of the credit union model has remained the same throughout my career and throughout the industry’s history. Navigant was founded in 1915 because a group of people in the small town of Central Falls, R.I., wanted to give their neighbors—many of whom were French-Canadian immigrants struggling to start their new lives in America—a fair shot at achieving their financial goals. 

Today, as Rhode Island’s largest credit union with 23 branch locations across the state, we’ve grown well beyond the confines of Central Falls but we’ve never lost sight of our people-first values.

Navigant’s history serves as a microcosm for the credit union model. We’re here to help our neighbors succeed and to make the communities we serve better places to live and work. No matter how competitive the financial sector becomes, I don’t see that mission changing any time in the near future.

Q: How will you stay involved with credit unions and Navigant in retirement

A: I’ll always be a vocal champion for Navigant and for the credit union movement, but it’s important for me to stress that I have every intention to truly retire. 

I’ll do anything and everything I can to ensure a seamless transition, and my door will always be open to anyone who knocks. But just as I had in 1987, our next leader deserves the freedom to forge his or her path toward Navigant’s next chapter of success. 

Thanks to our outstanding team’s hard work and unflinching dedication to our mission, the current state of Navigant is as strong as it’s ever been in our century-plus-long history. I couldn’t be more confident that our success will continue in the years and decades to come. 

Q: What advice do you have for future credit union leaders?

A: Love what you do, never lose sight of why you do it, and treat everybody around you with respect and empathy. 

For virtually my entire adult life, I’ve considered the daily act of driving into the office to work alongside my colleagues at Navigant a true privilege. There have been some tough days thrown into the mix, but I am blessed to enter retirement having known our team has made a real difference in the lives of the people we serve.