Joseph Garay, CEO of Ocean Financial Federal Credit Union, will retire this month after 29 years of leading the Oceanside-based non-profit. His retirement comes as the financial institution celebrates its 50th anniversary. Incoming CEO Joseph Tedesco will replace him by the end of the month.
In February 1969, Garay’s father, Joseph Garay, Sr., founded the credit union with six fellow members of the Father Joseph O’Connell Knights of Columbus. Originally called Oceanside Christopher Federal Credit Union, the chartered bank was exclusively for Oceanside’s Knights of Columbus members.
“[My father’s] line was, ‘Where does a guy go to borrow $50?’” Garay said. “Early on, we had this reputation as a real, friendly, local financial institution.”
Today, all Catholics are welcome to join, as per the credit union’s charter, and its name has shortened to Ocean Financial. It has become a $310 million, full-service credit union with walk-in locations in Oceanside and Seaford. Under Garay’s leadership, however, the community bank has reached beyond its South Shore locations.
“Our business plan is really to do things more electronically through your phone,” Garay said. “We’re accessible. If supporting a Catholic institution is important to you, you don’t need to live down the street anymore.”
Throughout his career, Garay said he’s most enjoyed helping others through the local credit union’s “great rates and customer service.”
“Being able to make life-changing decisions for a lot of families who had nowhere else to go was by far the most satisfying [part of the job],” he said. “I’m not saying they all worked out perfectly, but a lot of them helped, for example, someone with bad credit who needs a car to go to work. We may be his or her last resort to find help.”
Along the same vein, he took pride in running a non-profit, rather than a big bank. He explained that unlike banks like Citi or Bank of America, credit union workers do not individually profit from its business and offer more personalized service. “I’ve been very fortunate to work in the credit union movement,” Garay said. “Deceptive advertising or tricking people would never be tolerated here. Everyone who comes in here gets a fair shake.”
Laura Cassell, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, attested to Garay’s spirit of giving. Over the years, Garay established a relationship between Ocean Financial and the local Catholic Charities by offering financial and organizational support, as well as raising awareness for what the not-for-profit, charitable organization does for those in need.
“We’ve been so grateful to him for appreciating our mission,” Cassell said. “A spirit of faith and family is at the core of the credit union. They respect their customers almost like they’re extended family.”
In 2016, Garay was honored at Catholic Charities’ annual golf outing, and a year later, he joined the charity’s board of trustees, where he will remain after his retirement. “We look forward to meeting his successor and continuing the relationship,” Cassell said.
Tedesco, who will start working with Garay in mid-May and officially take over by the end of the month, is from Pennsylvania and will relocate to Long Island for the position.
“He’s well qualified and seems to be a community oriented person,” Garay said. “We have every confidence he’s the right person to bring the organization forward.”
David Franco, chief information officer of Ocean Financial, called Garay “a mentor and a friend,” who offered him advice in both work and life. He said Garay will “definitely be missed,” noting that the Garay family will always be associated with the institution having set its foundation for years to come.
“The future is bright,” Franco said. “I look to the next 50 years and see that we’re only going to grow, offer more digital products for our customers and continue to promote Catholic values.”