Seibels is excited to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2019. Built on a foundation of stability, trust, and innovation, Seibels has demonstrated a strong commitment to the industry it is proud to serve. While Seibels’ business model has changed over time, the company’s ongoing dedication to clients remains steadfast.
Like many successful businesses, Seibels recognizes the importance of evolving time and time again to meet the changing needs of its industry. Due to advances in technology, weather-related events, and consumer needs, companies in the insurance industry must evolve to stay relevant.
Chairman Rex Huggins became CEO of Seibels in 2014. Fueled by his vision, Seibels implemented a “best-in-class” initiative across the company. Seibels refined its service offerings, updated its technology portfolio, and underwent major renovations of its headquarters on Lady Street.
Investing in new technology was an instrumental factor in the best-in-class campaign. The company spent months researching and interviewing the industry’s best vendors before selecting those with which to partner. The result? A unique, world-class ecosystem that bolsters Seibels’ services. When clients work with Seibels, they now gain access to this ecosystem as well, which is beneficial for their business.
Renovating the Seibels building was a large part of the best-in-class campaign. Seibels partnered with M. B. Kahn Construction Company, BOUDREAUX, and Industrial Project Innovation for a total modernization of the building. Earlier this year, the Columbia Chamber presented Seibels with the Golden Nail Award in recognition of this effort.
Seibels purchased 1501 Lady Street in 1965 from Carolina Life Insurance Company. The building, which was designed by Lafaye, Fair, & Lafaye, is one of Columbia’s most significant examples of Federal Modern style, which was popular among commercial and corporate buildings in the 1950s–60s. The building was originally built in 1949 with an additional wing added by M. B. Kahn in 1977. Since the building has only had two occupants, its style has remained authentic to its original design.
In 2016, the 1949 portion of the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places and named a City of Columbia Landmark. While the 1949 portion received a complete refresh, several elements were not altered due to historical significance. The mahogany wood paneling, floor-to-ceiling columns, intricate nickel return air grills, and terrazzo floors in the main lobby are just a few of the historical features that were retained during the renovation.
The 1977 portion of the building underwent total modernization to accommodate Seibels’ growing business needs. M. B. Kahn conducted mechanical upgrades, added training rooms, updated the catastrophe storm center, and modernized office spaces.
While most of the renovations took place within the interior of the building, the exterior received several updates as well. The building’s windows were completely refurbished, and the sandstone exterior was caulked, cleaned, and sealed. Landscaping was also completed to add curb appeal to Columbia’s vastly changing scenery.
“The Seibels building has been a landmark in Columbia for decades. We wanted to maintain the building’s history, yet modernize it to meet the needs of our evolving business and clients. We are very happy with the outcome, and would like to thank all of our vendor partners for working with us on this very exciting project,” Mr. Huggins says.
While physical changes took place on the exterior of the company, numerous changes happened inside as well.
“Our transformation would not be possible without our people,” he says. “We have a great team dedicated to driving transformation at Seibels. I could not be prouder of our group and am grateful to be part of the journey.”
The best-in-class campaign sharpened the pencil for Seibels, bringing it to the forefront of the insurance industry as a business process services provider. Seibels is now uniquely positioned to strategically expand its client base and grow its geographic footprint.
Seibels has not focused only on business these past few years. The company has raised awareness and funds for its adopted charity, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and supported a wide variety of local philanthropic efforts. Team members have also celebrated numerous milestones with company parties, luncheons, and special events. The annual tailgate party is a favorite amongst team members. Every year, as summer winds down and football season begins, the team comes together for a cookout style event.
In May, Seibels recognizes its sesquicentennial anniversary with a weeklong celebration. Numerous events are planned both inside and outside of the office. The company looks forward to hosting clients, vendor partners, community leaders, and dignitaries at a reception at the Seibels House, which is believed to be the oldest residential house in Columbia. It seems only fitting that the anniversary celebration is hosted at this locale, which was once owned by the Seibels family.
In addition to the reception, Seibels will also take a small group to the IBHS Research Center in Richburg, South Carolina, for a tour of the state-of-the-art research facility. The group will learn more about IBHS’s effort to evaluate construction materials and systems, all of which impact the insurance industry.
Progress for Seibels will not stop after the 150th celebration. The company remains focused on bringing clients live onto its new systems. Seibels also plans to strategically pursue new opportunities in the marketplace.
“Say the name ‘Seibels’ aloud in the Columbia community or insurance industry, and you’re likely to generate a friendly response due to the company’s history,” says Rex Huggins. “People often recall a friend, family member, or associate who worked or did business with Seibels at some point in their life. It’s special to glean a strong reputation such as this.”
The Seibels legacy dates to 1869. After General Sherman’s troops ravaged Columbia in the Civil War and burned most of the city, Edwin W. Seibels and J.B. Ezell founded “E.W. Seibels and Company” in the back of a clothing store on Main Street. And thus, the legacy began.
Seibels has always been known for its entrepreneurial spirit. The company founder’s son, Edwin G. Seibels, was one of the pioneers of the invention of the vertical filing cabinet circa 1898. One of his wooden filing boxes is said to have been on display at the Smithsonian since 1941. In the 1970s, an employee from Seibels created what would become one of the first commercially available policy administration systems.
Fast forward to today, and Seibels continues to make an impact. The company was recognized by Secretary of State Mark Hammond as a Centennial Business in 2018 and recognized as a 2018 Top Workplace in South Carolina by Integrated Media Publishing.
Under Mr. Huggins’ leadership, the company plans to carry on this torch and make a difference in the industry and community. “We’ve undergone a transformation so we can drive our legacy into the future,” says Mr. Huggins. “Now the fun part begins. We’re just getting started.”