Amanda Dambuza, our Chairperson, shares where it all started for her:

“My mother could not afford to pay for my university education so to get myself through in life, I joined an agency that offered students part-time jobs.

This included standing at the corners of traffic light handing out pamphlets, waitressing at a coffee shop during the day, and stocktaking at supermarkets during the night. All gruelling and tiring work but I knew that education was my ticket to a better life. My applications for financial assistance through - what we call NSFAS today, were always rejected. My turning point in life, was the day that I found out that my application for financial assistance was approved. This meant I did not have to leave university, but I had to continue working while studying to supplement the little I received.

My first full time job was an entry level position at a call centre where I earned a minimum wage.

Fast forward twenty years later, and Amanda describes her role at Grindrod Bank:

Today I am a successful entrepreneur, and the first African woman to be appointed Chairperson of the Board for a South African bank. As the Chairperson I play a vital role in ensuring that I inspire confidence both in the executives and staff, our clients and stakeholders including our shareholders and the regulators.

I must also ensure that we continue to cultivate a culture of ethics and accountability. Ultimately, we must protect the depositor’s monies through doing business in a prudent and responsible manner. We must always safeguard our banking licence to continue business and create much needed jobs.

I am proud to lead a board of highly accomplished individuals who bring so much expertise, proven experience, and skills to the table. My role is to harness the power of the collective for the good of the bank and its stakeholders. I love working with individuals who refuse to settle for the ordinary.

The Covid-19 pandemic has most certainly flipped our world upside down in every way. Our focus now is around withstanding the shocks that have come from the various levels of lockdown. Some of our clients are under severe pressure and they need our support wherever possible. Balancing that and managing liquidity will remain a priority for the foreseeable future. Also managing the risks and opportunities that come with the new ways of working is a top of mind issue.

The best innovations have been known to come out in response to a crisis, so I really look forward to seeing what the industry does going forward.”

Amanda shares some advice for those wanting to get ahead:

“To get ahead, you need to sharpen your competence and evolve. Self-development, not just technically, but also as a well-rounded person, truly matters. I  like to remind people that leaders often stand up and get counted in a time of crisis. This is the time to raise your hand and do the extra-ordinary, even if you have no tile to do so. I am a big advocate of personal mastery because many a success has stemmed from that approach.

My advice to young people will be, get ready to earn your keep. Check yourself for any sense of entitlement and instead work hard toward building credibility and competence in your career. Those things put you in good stead as no one can ever take them away.

Money comes - but not right away, so be prepared to keep your head down and build on what you have right now. Do not be afraid to change careers along the way. Always follow your passion and you will never go wrong.

Never be afraid to ask questions, speak out often and learn regularly until you reach a level where you are an expert at something, then move it up a notch and never settle.

Mediocrity will be your biggest enemy, guard against it. Be reliable, dependable and always keep your word.

Build relationships across the spectrum, they become critical in the long run. If you feel unsafe, act immediately. Find someone you can trust to help you. Never accept abuse or harassment.”

Amanda shares her views on coping with stress and maintaining a work-life balance:

“I like to distinguish between good and bad stress. A little anxiety about things that I care about is more than welcome. I have over the years developed a very strong understanding that I cannot worry about things that I cannot control.  The longer I do that the more I preserve my energy for the things I can control. There will always be stressful situations, but I choose which ones to worry about. My reaction to circumstances is a critical way of coping with stress. So, if it is stressful, I must find a way to change it if it is within my control.

My well-being and that of my family is a big priority for me so I choose what I spend time on. As a rule, I do not work after hours and neither do I work on weekends. There are unfortunately times where my commitments to the bank require that I do but it is not the norm. It is important to dedicate good quality time to my family and for me to replenish. I cannot give what I do not have.

I have a passion for gardening, so I often work in the garden, growing my own vegetables. We love this as a family. My home is truly a sanctuary for me, and I love spending time at home with the people that mean the most in my life. A good catch up with a close friend who stimulates me spiritually and intellectually is also something I absolutely treasure – after all it is the people that you surround yourself with that nourish your soul.”