A business graduate’s bid to make banking greener

Julia Ménayas adopted a properly-trodden path out of enterprise school, becoming an affiliate in a enterprise money agency. But in March 2020, just as she read about “something known as Covid”, she stop to set up a banking solutions business focusing on sustainability.

Launching Helios was an formidable transfer by the 27-12 months-previous Parisian, who only graduated from her masters in administration (MiM) at HEC Paris in 2018. For the to start with 4 months, the business comprised just Ménayas and her co-founder, Maeva Courtois, doing the job from Courtois’ kitchen area, noticed by the cat.

But Ménayas was driven by the motivation to pursue a vocation that would be about generating social worth, relatively than just earning a financial gain — an outlook that arrived in section from her time at business school.

When she started out at HEC Paris, she felt like one particular of the “lucky ones”, and the program taught her to transform that into a sense of social accountability.

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Via her perform experience — which includes at start out-ups as well as in venture capital and consulting — she was drawn to the technologies sector. But tech did not satisfy her desire to develop social value. She describes the business as “very weird”, and whilst there is sizeable social duty as an trader — choosing which industries and providers will thrive, what new work opportunities will be established and encouraging to form the broader financial course — “somehow we were not possessing it at all”, she states.

Sunny outlook: Helios invests in industries that do not add to the local weather disaster

So Ménayas returned to what she was taught on her MiM. “Leaving a VC — with incredibly excellent everyday living earnings — was tough,” she says. “But when it did not make perception in terms of [social] duty, I remembered what I had been taught on the MiM and how we had to assume not about wage but the value we could provide,” she states.

Helios, which provides its products and services in partnership with German banking computer software organization Solaris, is somewhere “between an NGO [non-governmental organisation] in conditions of aspiration and purpose” and a enterprise “because we have to be sustainable somehow”, states Ménayas.

Prospects fork out a cost to open an account and Helios pledges never ever to invest their deposits in industries that add to the weather disaster or damage biodiversity. “We do pretty the reverse,” Ménayas suggests. “We only direct our funding towards industries associated to the ecological changeover.” Symbolically, the 1st bank cards are built of cherrywood sourced from sustainable forests in Europe.

A Visa card made of cherrywood

Cherry on major: The company’s 1st bank playing cards are built from sustainable cherrywood

One more aim of Helios is to increase recognition amongst buyers about where by banks spend their deposits. When individuals take into consideration world-wide warming, Ménayas suggests, they have a tendency to feel of the effects of the automotive or aviation industries, but couple of seem at which providers banks fund making use of customers’ money.

“The banking market transforms people’s deposits into long-expression investments in the authentic financial system and, by deciding upon to finance industries like coal-fired energy or fuel extraction, [banks] basically have a ton of accountability in regards to our long run,” she argues.

Starting up to pay attention before truly top was a really very good profession lesson

Ménayas credits business college with opening up possibilities and inspiring her to be bolder. Together with obtain to a community of get started-ups, VCs and business people, HEC Paris promoted a “learn to dare” ethos that she says she appreciated. “The school opens up your thoughts to making a little something and not fearing the not known,” Ménayas suggests. “That was a excellent starting up level to go away typical business powering and start off a thing much more adventurous.”

Julia Ménayas © ©Magali Delporte

Without a doubt, her guidance to possible MiM college students — alongside being curious and open to having courses in a selection of subjects past finance — is to commit a third of their time in the classroom and two-thirds talking to classmates, instructors and speakers.

Tapping into this network gave Ménayas the self confidence and frame of mind to seek out help when she wants it — something that is proving critical as an entrepreneur. “Being exposed to extremely distinct existence tales was a excellent lesson mainly because I felt it was Alright for me to attain out to any one,” she suggests. “At Helios we have to build a thing from scratch, so we have to collect a large amount of talent, companions, investors and consumers, and be equipped to access out to everyone for assist, guidance or means.”

The MiM delivered a lesson in more every day skills, these as listening. There are a lot of major egos at company faculty, says Ménayas — a thing that was supplied quick shrift at the navy camp to which learners ended up sent to discover about teamwork. “The troopers instructed us, ‘You are heading to study how to shut up’,” she recalls.

Ménayas suggests she learnt to listen to other people in the team, as very well as to leaders. “As a manager and co-founder now, I imagine I generally pay attention. Setting up to hear in advance of essentially major was a really superior career lesson.”

The faculty opens up your brain to building a little something and not fearing the unidentified

The knowledge of teamwork that the MiM delivered has also been priceless. “Today, our venture is all about creating the most effective staff, a person that is 100 for every cent aligned with our function but also proficient to produce tangible success,” she suggests. “The team work, which was extremely powerful on the MiM, was very fantastic education for that.”

Helios is off to a stable begin. The initially spherical of fundraising brought in €1.5m and its 3,500 buyers across France, Belgium and Luxembourg have so much deposited €8m in latest accounts, which value €6 per thirty day period to open up. But the organization is young and there are problems ahead, these types of as recruitment, products, acquisition and increasing awareness among the consumers about how banking institutions use their cash.

But Ménayas stays characteristically ambitious: in 5 many years she would like Helios to employ 100-200 individuals and “be a lot a lot more political than we are now”. Like the new banks that started up throughout the industry’s electronic revolution, Helios is on the “verge” of bringing a “sustainable revolution of banking”, Ménayas says, “proving that we can do factors in another way, that we can establish a clear and sustainable design and, with any luck ,, paving the way for the banking sector to change additional radically and faster”.


2020 Co-founder, Helios

2018-20 Affiliate, Alven (undertaking funds agency)

2017-18 Consultant, Boston Consulting Group (six-month internship)

2017 Analyst, Knife Cash (enterprise cash fund — 6-thirty day period internship)

2014-18 Masters in management, HEC Paris (aspect of a double diploma in corporate and public administration science at Sciences Po)

2016-17 Personal equity analyst at Bpifrance (investment lender — six-thirty day period internship)

2015 Small business-to-business enterprise revenue at Jam (on the internet media enterprise — summer time internship)

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