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Jimmy Sounes talks forensics and golf

He might be head of our forensic services, but Jimmy Sounes is also a keen golfer. We spent some time with him to find out what makes him tick.

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Jimmy Sounes has been head of forensic services at Capitec for the last 3 years. “I previously worked at KPMG for 6 years before joining Capitec about 9 years ago. That means I’ve been in the field of forensics for 15 years and I have thoroughly enjoyed it!”

Sounes obtained a BCom Accounting degree at the North-West University followed by an honours degree in Financial Accounting and a masters in Forensic Accounting.

What forensics means in banking

“When people find out what my job is, I often get the question: ‘Is there blood? Bodies? Guns?’ I’m always sorry to disappoint them when I have to say it’s none of the above.”

Sounes explains that there are different teams in the forensics department but that their core function is to manage fraud risk at Capitec. “This includes client losses, Capitec losses, fraud prevention, fraud investigations and monitoring clients’ accounts to proactively identify possible fraud.”

His team is always busy. “There are about 75 people in our department split into 4 teams: fraud monitoring, forensic administration, forensic support and forensic investigations,” he says

“It’s extremely busy but interesting work. After I finished my BCom and during my honours degree, I had to figure out what career to pursue. My options were to go the Chartered Accounting (CA) route and do articles and become an auditor or accountant, or to go into forensic accounting,” says Sounes. “At that stage, the Shabir Shaik and Jacob Zuma case was in the spotlight and forensic auditing was a hot topic. It therefore struck me as something to pursue, especially because fraud cases very rarely are the same.”

Fraud syndicates very rarely follow the same modus operandi, he says. “In my mind, working as an auditor can be quite a repetitive job, but I prefer to be constantly challenged. A career in forensics offered me that 15 years ago and still delivers to this day.”

Focused job, focused sport golf

Golf is a great sport, says Sounes, because it teaches you discipline. “You have to be focused for 4,5 hours, and just a few bad holes can mess up your entire round.” It also teaches you the importance of practising. “It’s a difficult sport and many people give up shortly after they start. If you want to improve, you have to practise putting, chipping and driving.”

Sounes’ dad was not a golfer but he found an old set of clubs at home, which he used to mess around with. “I couldn’t afford to play golf at university. When I could, which wasn’t often, I’d play a few rounds with mates. It was only when I started working at KPMG in East London that I started to play more golf.”

He had a good friend who was one of the top amateur golfers in the country at the time. “He began to coach me and taught me how to understand the science behind golf, and I quickly fell in love with the game.”

Although Sounes regards himself as a team player, he enjoys that golf is an individual sport and you have nobody to blame for a bad round, except yourself. Although a round of golf takes long, he says it gives him time to reflect and forget about work stress or family pressure.

It also gives him the opportunity to network. “I love people and networking and I’m always meeting new people on the golf course. After spending more than 4 hours together on the greens, you walk off as friends. I’ve built many relationships that way, both personal and business.”

Sounes adds that you also get to know a person really well on the golf course. “The emotions are often quite raw. When someone hits a bad shot, or even a good one, their reaction says a lot about them. There’s no hiding! Your real character comes out.”

Golfing career highlights

In November 2020, Sounes was invited to play in the BCX SuperSport Shootout, South Africa’s top celebrity golfing event. “It was a big opportunity to meet new people,” he says. “It was broadcast on TV, which was a big deal and new for me. I got nervous seeing the cameras and not knowing if they were filming me.”

Although the pressure was on for two days, out of about 120 players, Sounes finished 10th. “I am really proud of that achievement and am definitely hoping for an invite to the 2021 tournament.”

The importance of balancing work and play 

“I believe it’s important to give yourself enough time to switch off from work. My two rounds of golf a month help with that,” he says. But he makes sure to book an early tee off to be home by lunch time so that he can spend the afternoon with his family.

“You have to make the effort, if you don’t book a tee time and commit to playing, you’ll quickly get absorbed by family matters or work. The mental health benefit golf has for me is important. It makes me a better husband, father and head of forensics.”

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