Foundation News

Art Seaver receives 2023 Visionary Leadership Award


by Jeremy L.C. Jones

Art Seaver fosters a network of leaders committed to service


Arthur “Art” Seaver Jr., the founder and chief executive officer of Southern First Bank, considers himself a “fortunate and privileged leader.” “This company has far surpassed my relatively humble dreams,” he reflects. “I knew we’d be successful, but I never thought that 24 years later, we’d be a $4 billion bank with 300 people operating in eight markets in the Southeast. I just didn’t.”

Founding Southern First took a combination of vision and “not knowing any better,” he says. “Who lets a 35-year-old kid start a bank?” he asks. “I look back, and I laugh a little bit. I was 35 years old with two kids, no money. But I had a dream of starting a bank. And I was young enough and naive enough to think we could do it.”

Seaver learned a lot along the way, and he continues to learn. “There were times I had no idea what I was doing,” says Seaver. “Maybe I still don’t know exactly what I’m doing. But that’s okay.”

One lesson he learned early on has paid off time and time again. “Innovative leaders surround themselves with great people,” says Seaver, “and they give those incredibly talented people the tools they need to be successful.”

From the start, Seaver surrounded himself with people who embraced his entrepreneurial spirit.

“I didn’t anticipate how many people would want to share in our dream of impacting lives,” Seaver says. “That’s the mission of this company, and it resonates. And it enables us to recruit talent throughout the southeast.”

And that “great talent,” Seaver is proud to say, tends to stick around. “Our turnover rate is remarkably small,” says Seaver. “If the mission of this company was to have the highest stock price, I don’t think our team would have as much of a buy-in. But we believe in serving people and impacting lives.”

Seaver and his team focus on relationship-based service. “We are not product-based,” says Seaver. “If you ask one of our clients who their banker is, they’ll give you the name of a person, not the name of the bank.”

Seaver gauges his effectiveness as a leader by asking one very simple question: “If something were to happen to me today, would our company still run great tomorrow?” “The answer is ‘yes.’ There are probably 20 people in our company who could run the company better than I can. I love our team.”



Arthur “Art” Seaver Jr., the founder and chief executive officer of Southern First Bank, has been actively involved with many nonprofit organizations. “Southern First is a really strong community partner,” says Seaver. “We have six core values and serving others is the very first one. Our team cares about their communities.”

Seaver’s philanthropic work includes:

Serving as a former chairman of the board for the United Way of Greenville County in each of their eight markets. The key to a successful campaign, says Seaver, is to “set a big goal, make it personal, and have fun with it.”

Serving as an active member of First Presbyterian Church of Greenville since his family moved to the area when he was in the sixth grade. “I grew up in that church,” he says. “My faith is very important to me.”

In the past, Seaver has worked with the Thornblade Club, South Carolina Bankers Association, Leadership Greenville, Greenville Chamber of Commerce, South Carolina Network of Business and Education Partnership, Junior Achievement, Greenville Convention and Visitors Bureau, Junior League, Palmetto Society, and Phillis Wheatley Community Center.

Back to News

Make a Difference
in Our Community