A business graduate’s bid to make banking greener

Julia Ménayas adopted a well-trodden path out of business enterprise school, becoming an associate in a venture cash firm. But in March 2020, just as she heard about “something named Covid”, she give up to set up a banking products and services firm concentrating on sustainability.

Launching Helios was an formidable go by the 27-yr-previous Parisian, who only graduated from her masters in management (MiM) at HEC Paris in 2018. For the to start with 4 months, the business enterprise comprised just Ménayas and her co-founder, Maeva Courtois, working from Courtois’ kitchen, observed by the cat.

But Ménayas was pushed by the drive to go after a vocation that would be about building social price, fairly than basically producing a financial gain — an outlook that arrived in section from her time at business enterprise school.

When she began at HEC Paris, she felt like a single of the “lucky ones”, and the system taught her to convert that into a sense of social obligation.

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By her get the job done working experience — including at start out-ups as well as in venture cash and consulting — she was drawn to the know-how sector. But tech did not satisfy her drive to produce social price. She describes the industry as “very weird”, and though there is significant social obligation as an investor — selecting which industries and companies will thrive, what new positions will be developed and encouraging to condition the broader financial course — “somehow we were being not possessing it at all”, she states.

Sunny outlook: Helios invests in industries that do not contribute to the weather crisis

So Ménayas returned to what she was taught on her MiM. “Leaving a VC — with very superior everyday living earnings — was tricky,” she states. “But when it did not make sense in terms of [social] obligation, I remembered what I had been taught on the MiM and how we had to feel not about salary but the price we could deliver,” she states.

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

Shoppers spend a charge to open an account and Helios pledges never to invest their deposits in industries that contribute to the weather crisis or harm biodiversity. “We do rather the reverse,” Ménayas states. “We only direct our funding to industries connected to the ecological transition.” Symbolically, the to start with financial institution playing cards are built of cherrywood sourced from sustainable forests in Europe.

A Visa card made of cherrywood
Cherry on top rated: The company’s to start with financial institution playing cards are built from sustainable cherrywood

An additional aim of Helios is to elevate consciousness among people about where by financial institutions invest their deposits. When people today contemplate world wide warming, Ménayas states, they tend to feel of the impact of the automotive or aviation industries, but few glance at which companies financial institutions fund making use of customers’ cash.

“The banking industry transforms people’s deposits into extensive-time period investments in the genuine economic climate and, by selecting to finance industries like coal-fired electrical power or gas extraction, [financial institutions] truly have a good deal of obligation in regards to our upcoming,” she argues.

Ménayas credits business enterprise school with opening up chances and inspiring her to be bolder. Together with obtain to a community of start out-ups, VCs and business owners, HEC Paris promoted a “learn to dare” ethos that she states she appreciated. “The school opens up your thoughts to building anything and not fearing the unidentified,” Ménayas states. “That was a superior commencing level to go away regular industry behind and start out anything much more adventurous.”

Julia Ménayas © ©Magali Delporte

In fact, her assistance to potential MiM college students — together with getting curious and open to taking classes in a wide range of subjects outside of finance — is to spend a 3rd of their time in the classroom and two-thirds talking to classmates, instructors and speakers.

Tapping into this community gave Ménayas the assurance and state of mind to find help when she wants it — anything that is proving important as an entrepreneur. “Being uncovered to very distinct everyday living tales was a superior lesson mainly because I felt it was Ok for me to access out to any one,” she states. “At Helios we have to make anything from scratch, so we have to get a good deal of talent, companions, traders and clients, and be ready to access out to any one for support, assistance or resources.”

The MiM offered a lesson in much more every day abilities, these as listening. There are a lot of huge egos at business enterprise school, states Ménayas — anything that was supplied brief shrift at the military services camp to which college students were being sent to study about teamwork. “The soldiers explained to us, ‘You are likely to study how to shut up’,” she remembers.

Ménayas states she learnt to listen to other people in the group, as well as to leaders. “As a manager and co-founder now, I feel I mainly listen. Beginning to listen ahead of truly major was a very superior vocation lesson.”

The working experience of teamwork that the MiM offered has also been invaluable. “Today, our venture is all about building the ideal team, a single that is 100 for every cent aligned with our objective but also competent to produce tangible success,” she states. “The group get the job done, which was very rigorous on the MiM, was very superior schooling for that.”

Helios is off to a strong start out. The to start with round of fundraising brought in €1.5m and its 3,500 buyers throughout France, Belgium and Luxembourg have so far deposited €8m in present-day accounts, which price €6 for every thirty day period to open. But the business enterprise is youthful and there are worries in advance, these as recruitment, merchandise, acquisition and elevating consciousness among people about how financial institutions use their cash.

But Ménayas remains characteristically formidable: in five decades she would like Helios to use 100-two hundred people today and “be a great deal much more political than we are now”. Like the new financial institutions that began up in the course of the industry’s digital revolution, Helios is on the “verge” of bringing a “sustainable revolution of banking”, Ménayas states, “proving that we can do points in different ways, that we can make a transparent and sustainable model and, ideally, paving the way for the banking industry to shift much more radically and faster”.


2020 Co-founder, Helios

2018-20 Affiliate, Alven (venture cash firm)

2017-18 Marketing consultant, Boston Consulting Group (six-thirty day period internship)

2017 Analyst, Knife Funds (venture cash fund — six-thirty day period internship)

2014-18 Masters in management, HEC Paris (section of a double diploma in company and community management science at Sciences Po)

2016-17 Private equity analyst at Bpifrance (financial investment financial institution — six-thirty day period internship)

2015 Business-to-business enterprise gross sales at Jam (on line media firm — summertime internship)