A business graduate’s bid to make banking greener

Julia Ménayas adopted a nicely-trodden route out of business enterprise college, turning into an affiliate…

Julia Ménayas adopted a nicely-trodden route out of business enterprise college, turning into an affiliate in a enterprise money agency. But in March 2020, just as she heard about “something identified as Covid”, she give up to established up a banking solutions business focusing on sustainability.

Launching Helios was an ambitious move by the 27-12 months-aged Parisian, who only graduated from her masters in administration (MiM) at HEC Paris in 2018. For the very first 4 months, the business enterprise comprised just Ménayas and her co-founder, Maeva Courtois, doing the job from Courtois’ kitchen area, observed by the cat.

But Ménayas was driven by the want to go after a career that would be about developing social value, alternatively than merely producing a revenue — an outlook that came in component from her time at business enterprise college.

When she started at HEC Paris, she felt like a single of the “lucky ones”, and the study course taught her to transform that into a sense of social accountability.

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As a result of her do the job experience — such as at begin-ups as nicely as in enterprise money and consulting — she was drawn to the technology sector. But tech did not meet her want to build social value. She describes the business as “very weird”, and although there is important social accountability as an investor — choosing which industries and firms will thrive, what new careers will be made and serving to to condition the broader economic route — “somehow we have been not proudly owning it at all”, she says.

Sunny outlook: Helios invests in industries that do not lead to the local climate crisis

So Ménayas returned to what she was taught on her MiM. “Leaving a VC — with very very good lifetime earnings — was challenging,” she says. “But when it did not make sense in phrases of [social] accountability, I remembered what I experienced been taught on the MiM and how we experienced to feel not about income but the value we could convey,” she says.

Helios, which gives its solutions in partnership with German banking software program business Solaris, is someplace “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.

Clients spend a fee to open up an account and Helios pledges never to invest their deposits in industries that lead to the local climate crisis or damage biodiversity. “We do fairly the opposite,” Ménayas says. “We only immediate our funding towards industries associated to the ecological transition.” Symbolically, the very first financial institution cards are created of cherrywood sourced from sustainable forests in Europe.

A Visa card made of cherrywood
Cherry on best: The company’s very first financial institution cards are created from sustainable cherrywood

A different intention of Helios is to raise consciousness among the shoppers about exactly where banks invest their deposits. When persons contemplate world warming, Ménayas says, they are inclined to feel of the effects of the automotive or aviation industries, but couple appear at which firms banks fund applying customers’ cash.

“The banking business transforms people’s deposits into prolonged-time period investments in the genuine economic system and, by choosing to finance industries like coal-fired power or fuel extraction, [banks] in fact have a lot of accountability in regards to our future,” she argues.

Ménayas credits business enterprise college with opening up alternatives and inspiring her to be bolder. Together with access to a network of begin-ups, VCs and entrepreneurs, HEC Paris promoted a “learn to dare” ethos that she says she appreciated. “The college opens up your thoughts to building a thing and not fearing the unknown,” Ménayas says. “That was a very good starting place to leave standard business behind and begin a thing a lot more adventurous.”

Julia Ménayas © ©Magali Delporte

Without a doubt, her assistance to possible MiM pupils — together with remaining curious and open up to getting programs in a wide range of topics beyond finance — is to expend a 3rd of their time in the classroom and two-thirds conversing to classmates, academics and speakers.

Tapping into this network gave Ménayas the confidence and state of mind to seek aid when she wants it — a thing that is proving important as an entrepreneur. “Being exposed to very different lifetime stories was a very good lesson because I felt it was Alright for me to get to out to anybody,” she says. “At Helios we have to make a thing from scratch, so we have to get a lot of expertise, companions, buyers and clients, and be equipped to get to out to anybody for assistance, assistance or resources.”

The MiM offered a lesson in a lot more each day capabilities, this kind of as listening. There are lots of large egos at business enterprise college, says Ménayas — a thing that was presented limited shrift at the army camp to which pupils have been despatched to understand about teamwork. “The soldiers informed us, ‘You are likely to understand how to shut up’,” she recollects.

Ménayas says she learnt to pay attention to many others in the group, as nicely as to leaders. “As a supervisor and co-founder now, I feel I primarily pay attention. Starting up to pay attention just before in fact leading was a very very good career lesson.”

The experience of teamwork that the MiM offered has also been invaluable. “Today, our enterprise is all about building the ideal staff, a single that is one hundred for each cent aligned with our reason but also qualified to provide tangible results,” she says. “The group do the job, which was very intensive on the MiM, was very very good schooling for that.”

Helios is off to a solid begin. The very first spherical of fundraising introduced in €1.5m and its 3,500 consumers throughout France, Belgium and Luxembourg have so considerably deposited €8m in recent accounts, which charge €6 for each month to open up. But the business enterprise is young and there are issues ahead, this kind of as recruitment, product, acquisition and increasing consciousness among the shoppers about how banks use their cash.

But Ménayas continues to be characteristically ambitious: in five many years she desires Helios to employ one hundred-two hundred persons and “be considerably a lot more political than we are now”. Like the new banks that started up through 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 differently, that we can make a transparent and sustainable model and, hopefully, paving the way for the banking business to shift a lot more radically and faster”.


2020 Co-founder, Helios

2018-twenty Affiliate, Alven (enterprise money agency)

2017-18 Expert, Boston Consulting Team (6-month internship)

2017 Analyst, Knife Cash (enterprise money fund — 6-month internship)

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

2016-seventeen Personal equity analyst at Bpifrance (investment financial institution — 6-month internship)

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