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From West Point to Points East

Chad and Peggy Creveling left military careers to cater to the financial needs of expatriates in Bangkok.

Morningstar Advisor, 05/30/2012

Navigating the uncertain financial waters of expatriate life is something that Chad and Peggy Creveling know well. They founded Creveling and Creveling Private Wealth Advisory in Bangkok in part to provide the assistance they once sought for their own financial needs but found lacking in a market they say was less focused on client needs and more focused on costly financial products.

Their entry into finance was predicated partly on being in the right place at the right time. They met while cadets in the 1980s at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where they both studied engineering, with Peggy also majoring in economics and Chad in Russian and German. They were later stationed in Hawaii—Peggy as a military intelligence officer and Chad as an Army Ranger—which gave them opportunities to travel in Asia.

“When we decided to get out of the army, we were looking for a transition,” Chad says. “But at that point, as former army officers, you really don’t know much about the business world. You don’t know where you’re headed.”

Chad started an MBA program at Stanford in 1992, completing his first year before accepting an internship in Bangkok. Peggy joined him later in 1993. It was in the heady Asian financial boom of the 1990s that they began their careers in finance. “I guess we were always looking to try something different, and we wanted to live overseas,” Peggy says. “An opportunity presented itself in Bangkok. The change in the Asian capital markets that was going on then was maybe unprecedented but was certainly fascinating. There was a huge demand for people to actually be involved in it.”

They soon found positions in institutional equity research advising the fund manager clients of W. I. Carr (Far East), Paribas Asia Equity, Citigroup, and Salomon Smith Barney, among others. In 1996, they received their credentials as Chartered Financial Analysts and later earned rated analyst rankings in AsiaMoney and Institutional Investor surveys. They had found their stride professionally, riding the excitement of Asia’s “tiger” economy and weathering the financial crisis of 1997 and bubbles in 2001 and 2002. It was an exciting time, but they hadn’t quite found their niche.

Fee-Only Trailblazers
They struck out on their own in 2006, switching from providing institutional-level advice to working with private clients. They adopted the U.S. model of being fiduciaries and offering fee-only financial planning to serve the region’s growing number of expatriates. Being fee-only differentiated the Crevelings from the commission-based advisors most prevalent in Asia. For them, it was a matter of exchang- ing prevailing approaches to financial advising in Asia—sitting across a table and pitching financial products—for being advisors who work for the client with no third-party commissions to get in the way.

“We’ve put ourselves on the same side of the table as the client,” Peggy says. “The client makes the final decision, but we provide all the analysis, research, and recommenda- tions to help you make the optimal decision for your situation.”

They at first worked with clients on a fixed- price, project-by-project basis, but they soon found that clients weren’t following through on the advice they received from the firm.

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