A business graduate’s bid to make banking greener

Julia Ménayas adopted a very well-trodden route out of business enterprise school, becoming an affiliate in a venture money agency. But in March 2020, just as she heard about “something referred to as Covid”, she stop to established up a banking solutions company focusing on sustainability.

Launching Helios was an ambitious shift by the 27-12 months-old Parisian, who only graduated from her masters in management (MiM) at HEC Paris in 2018. For the initially 4 months, the organization comprised just Ménayas and her co-founder, Maeva Courtois, working from Courtois’ kitchen area, observed by the cat.

But Ménayas was pushed by the desire to pursue a profession that would be about creating social worth, rather than only making a profit — an outlook that came in component from her time at business school.

When she started out at HEC Paris, she felt like just one of the “lucky ones”, and the study course taught her to switch that into a feeling of social duty.

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As a result of her operate encounter — like at start off-ups as effectively as in venture funds and consulting — she was drawn to the technological know-how sector. But tech did not meet up with her wish to build social price. She describes the marketplace as “very weird”, and although there is considerable social accountability as an investor — picking out which industries and providers will thrive, what new jobs will be produced and assisting to condition the broader economic direction — “somehow we have been not owning it at all”, she states.

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

So Ménayas returned to what she was taught on her MiM. “Leaving a VC — with extremely excellent daily life earnings — was challenging,” she states. “But when it did not make sense in phrases of [social] accountability, I remembered what I had been taught on the MiM and how we experienced to consider not about wage but the value we could deliver,” she suggests.

Helios, which gives its companies in partnership with German banking program company Solaris, is somewhere “between an NGO [non-governmental organisation] in phrases of aspiration and purpose” and a business enterprise “because we have to be sustainable somehow”, says Ménayas.

Prospects pay a price to open an account and Helios pledges under no circumstances to devote their deposits in industries that lead to the weather crisis or hurt biodiversity. “We do fairly the reverse,” Ménayas claims. “We only immediate our funding in direction of industries associated to the ecological changeover.” Symbolically, the first bank cards are built of cherrywood sourced from sustainable forests in Europe.

A Visa card made of cherrywood
Cherry on top: The company’s very first bank cards are manufactured from sustainable cherrywood

A further intention of Helios is to elevate recognition among the individuals about where banking companies devote their deposits. When individuals think about world warming, Ménayas claims, they tend to assume of the effects of the automotive or aviation industries, but handful of seem at which businesses financial institutions fund making use of customers’ funds.

“The banking marketplace transforms people’s deposits into long-time period investments in the true financial state and, by deciding upon to finance industries like coal-fired energy or gas extraction, [banks] truly have a good deal of responsibility in regards to our foreseeable future,” she argues.

Ménayas credits organization faculty with opening up alternatives and inspiring her to be bolder. Alongside accessibility to a community of get started-ups, VCs and business owners, HEC Paris promoted a “learn to dare” ethos that she claims she appreciated. “The faculty opens up your mind to setting up a little something and not fearing the unknown,” Ménayas claims. “That was a great starting off position to go away common sector driving and start out one thing additional adventurous.”

Julia Ménayas © ©Magali Delporte

In fact, her advice to prospective MiM pupils — alongside getting curious and open to getting classes in a wide range of subjects beyond finance — is to devote a 3rd of their time in the classroom and two-thirds chatting to classmates, instructors and speakers.

Tapping into this community gave Ménayas the self esteem and frame of mind to seek support when she needs it — a little something that is proving critical as an entrepreneur. “Being uncovered to really unique daily life stories was a good lesson mainly because I felt it was Ok for me to achieve out to any individual,” she states. “At Helios we have to build something from scratch, so we have to acquire a lot of talent, partners, investors and customers, and be ready to get to out to any person for support, information or resources.”

The MiM presented a lesson in a lot more everyday capabilities, these types of as listening. There are a great deal of large egos at business faculty, suggests Ménayas — one thing that was provided limited shrift at the military services camp to which learners were being despatched to master about teamwork. “The troopers informed us, ‘You are likely to understand how to shut up’,” she recollects.

Ménayas says she learnt to listen to other individuals in the team, as nicely as to leaders. “As a supervisor and co-founder now, I consider I typically listen. Starting up to pay attention right before truly foremost was a very fantastic occupation lesson.”

The expertise of teamwork that the MiM furnished has also been invaluable. “Today, our enterprise is all about developing the finest team, one that is 100 per cent aligned with our function but also proficient to deliver tangible results,” she suggests. “The team function, which was quite rigorous on the MiM, was pretty fantastic training for that.”

Helios is off to a stable start out. The to start with round of fundraising brought in €1.5m and its 3,500 buyers across France, Belgium and Luxembourg have so much deposited €8m in current accounts, which charge €6 per month to open. But the organization is youthful and there are troubles forward, this sort of as recruitment, item, acquisition and increasing recognition between shoppers about how banking institutions use their income.

But Ménayas stays characteristically formidable: in five several years she needs Helios to hire 100-200 men and women and “be a lot more political than we are now”. Like the new banking 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 issues in different ways, that we can develop a clear and sustainable product and, ideally, paving the way for the banking market to shift much more radically and faster”.


2020 Co-founder, Helios

2018-20 Affiliate, Alven (venture funds organization)

2017-18 Marketing consultant, Boston Consulting Team (6-thirty day period internship)

2017 Analyst, Knife Capital (undertaking cash fund — six-thirty day period internship)

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

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

2015 Enterprise-to-organization revenue at Jam (on the internet media organization — summer internship)