Updated May 22 at 5:40pm

Investment chief guides with expertise, not drama

By Michael Persson
Contributing Writer
These days, banks can seem like characters in blockbuster movies: swirling in drama, thriving under turmoil, operating in crisis mode. Melissa Trapp, who manages Bank Rhode Island’s investment services, declares that she is “not headline material.” But she embodies the values that banks purport to deliver: sound judgment, a personal touch, little fanfare. More

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BUSINESS WOMEN

Investment chief guides with expertise, not drama

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These days, banks can seem like characters in blockbuster movies: swirling in drama, thriving under turmoil, operating in crisis mode. Melissa Trapp, who manages Bank Rhode Island’s investment services, declares that she is “not headline material.” But she embodies the values that banks purport to deliver: sound judgment, a personal touch, little fanfare.

Trapp is senior vice president, investment sales manager, for BankRI’s Bari Investment Services and has been named a Woman To Watch in the financial-services sector for the 2013 Business Women Awards program of Providence Business News.

She is aware of the crucial and personal nature of managing people’s money. “Selling investment services to people means you’re involved with their lives,” Trapp said. “People come to you with their life savings, college funds or retirement plans. I am aware of their fears, given what we’ve all gone through, and try to make the process of investing something that is free of emotion. With each investor comes a different conversation.”

Those conversations are how Trapp has led her team to excellence. She describes herself as a people person, working sensitively with customers and the employees she brings onto her staff. “Of course,” she said, “everyone I choose comes with all the right qualifications. The key is finding the right personal attributes that fit the place.”

Bari Investment Services was created in 2001, when Trapp led the conversion of BankRI’s investment services to an internal division. She managed all tasks, from transferring customer accounts to developing job descriptions to choosing the products the division would offer. She hired and trained the Bari staff.

After rebuilding the division, Trapp helped expand Bari to more than 4,000 accounts with more than $250 million in total assets under management. Since its creation, Bari has been a profitable division for the bank each year.

Jason Lea is a partner at the Providence brokerage firm, Broker’s Service Marketing Group. He said Trapp “can bring top-tier candidates to a relatively small institution and make them want to stay. That’s uncommon in this business, where talented people are looking for bigger, more, greater exposure.”

Trapp’s secret? “Ninety-nine percent of this comes down to gut feeling that has been honed over the course of many years,” she said. Trapp trusts that in new situations her experience will always bear fruit. “Why reinvent the wheel? I don’t have a monopoly on great ideas. What I do is part of my life and comes from being around a family full of bankers and insurance people.”

In recent years, finding new pursuits has added a new dimension to her life. She serves as treasurer for the Providence Preservation Society. “The nonprofit world makes it interesting,” Trapp said. “Meeting the types of people who come from different places all with disparate skill sets excites me.”

Lucie Searle, president of the preservation society, values what Trapp brings to the task. “Good, practical, hands-on judgment, that’s Melissa’s role at the society,” Searle said. “Thank goodness she isn’t an architect, or professional preservationist, or contractor. Could you imagine? Those are specialists. We need a generalist, someone who sees the whole picture.” •

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