In this series, we are celebrating the employees that make our bank a success. Through the stories of our people you will come to know the place we call Grindrod Bank – a company that values diversity, encourages inclusivity, and above all, inspires individuals and teams to succeed. This is Sarah’s story.


Sarah Freestone, our Marketing Manager, shares where it all started for her:

“My first job was waitressing for a private catering company while at university. I loved earning cash and can honestly say I’ve never had more disposable income before and since then! Simpler times. My first ‘real’ job was as a debt collector. I would spend hours on the phone harassing debtors to pay their accounts. I longed for more and eventually I applied for a marketing position. I completely tanked the interview because I hadn’t done my research and knew nothing about the brand or the industry. That’s my first piece of advice to job seekers out there: before your interview try and learn as much as possible about the company, its competitors, and the industry.

I got lucky and was offered the job and that is when I fell in love with marketing, PR and all things branding.  I would say the most important function of my role as Marketing Manager at Grindrod Bank is asking ’why’. Why should we involve ourselves in this or that particular activity – does it align with our strategic direction of the brand? Often people get caught up in the thrill and excitement of events and branding opportunities, but it is important to show restraint and ask why – is this actually good for the brand, will it help us engage with our clients on a deeper level, are we going to see sufficient and relevant returns if we invest in this activity? Having a questioning mind is an asset in this position.

Working in investment banking is exciting and we have to keep up with the trends. For example, transparency is crucial if you want to stay in business. The internet of things is no longer a futuristic concept, it is here. And our audience is hungry for information. As a business, if we don’t share with our client base, they are just going to find it elsewhere.

Convenience is another big trend. Across the board, clients want convenience when dealing with their bank. They want seamless transactions, omnichannel communication that is relevant and adds value, all while demanding improved levels of personalised service.”


Sarah shares some advice for those wanting to get ahead:

“My top tip for staying ahead in marketing is to be a student of the craft. I look for mentors and people who are smarter than I am and learn from what they are doing.

If I were to give the 2020 graduate class some advice about the working world I would say it is all up to you. No one else is going to do the work and make things happen for you. And while that might be a scary and daunting thought, it is also very empowering. You can do anything if you take it one step at a time. Be patient with yourself. If you work hard, it will happen. If you are interested in pursuing a career in marketing be prepared to sweat. Literally. Marketing is 10% glamour and fun. And 90% hard work and heavy lifting.

Marketing can be a stressful job, and nothing takes your mind off your problems like physical exercise. When your limbs are aching and your heart is pumping as you gasp for breath, you don’t have time to worry about anything else. That and a good night’s sleep with a reminder that nothing is as bad as it seems the next day.”


And lastly, Sarah shares her views on maintaining a work-life balance:

“I think it is a myth! Our lives are never in balance. The illusive state is made worse by how we categorise it. It implies that work is bad, and life is good; that we lose ourselves in work but find ourselves in life; that we have to survive work in order to live life. I don’t believe that we have to balance the heaviness of work with the lightness of life. Because work isn’t the opposite of life. It is merely another part of our lives, like family, friends, hobbies or pastimes. Every part has uplifting moments and other moments that drag us down. Framing it that way means that you lose sight of the fact that work can be a great source of delight and enjoyment.”

Well said Sarah, and thanks for sharing a slice of your life with us.