December 6, 2023

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A business graduate’s bid to make banking greener

Julia Ménayas adopted a perfectly-trodden path out of business enterprise school, getting an associate in a enterprise cash firm. But in March 2020, just as she read about “something termed Covid”, she quit to established up a banking services company focusing on sustainability.

Launching Helios was an ambitious move by the 27-yr-old Parisian, who only graduated from her masters in administration (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, doing work from Courtois’ kitchen, observed by the cat.

But Ménayas was pushed by the drive to go after a job that would be about developing social worth, relatively than just creating a gain — an outlook that arrived in part from her time at business enterprise school.

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

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By way of her perform encounter — which include at begin-ups as perfectly as in enterprise cash and consulting — she was drawn to the technologies sector. But tech did not meet up with her drive to produce social worth. She describes the field as “very weird”, and though there is considerable social duty as an investor — choosing which industries and firms will prosper, what new employment will be produced and supporting to condition the broader economic course — “somehow we had been not possessing it at all”, she says.

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

So Ménayas returned to what she was taught on her MiM. “Leaving a VC — with really good existence earnings — was tricky,” she says. “But when it did not make perception in phrases of [social] duty, I remembered what I experienced been taught on the MiM and how we experienced to think not about income but the worth we could bring,” she says.

Helios, which delivers its services in partnership with German banking program company 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 fork out a cost to open up an account and Helios pledges never ever to make investments their deposits in industries that contribute to the local weather crisis or damage biodiversity. “We do rather the reverse,” Ménayas says. “We only immediate our funding in the direction of industries linked to the ecological transition.” Symbolically, the to start with bank cards are created of cherrywood sourced from sustainable forests in Europe.

A Visa card made of cherrywood
Cherry on leading: The company’s to start with bank cards are created from sustainable cherrywood

An additional goal of Helios is to elevate recognition amid buyers about exactly where financial institutions make investments their deposits. When folks think about world-wide warming, Ménayas says, they have a tendency to think of the influence of the automotive or aviation industries, but couple look at which firms financial institutions fund making use of customers’ funds.

“The banking field transforms people’s deposits into lengthy-expression investments in the real financial state and, by choosing to finance industries like coal-fired energy or gasoline extraction, [financial institutions] in fact have a ton of duty in regards to our foreseeable future,” she argues.

Ménayas credits business enterprise school with opening up opportunities and inspiring her to be bolder. Alongside access to a network of begin-ups, VCs and entrepreneurs, HEC Paris promoted a “learn to dare” ethos that she says she appreciated. “The school opens up your head to setting up a little something and not fearing the unknown,” Ménayas says. “That was a good starting place to leave traditional field behind and begin a little something far more adventurous.”

Julia Ménayas © ©Magali Delporte

Certainly, her guidance to possible MiM students — together with becoming curious and open up to having classes in a assortment of topics outside of finance — is to shell out a 3rd of their time in the classroom and two-thirds conversing to classmates, teachers and speakers.

Tapping into this network gave Ménayas the self-confidence and way of thinking to search for help when she requirements it — a little something that is proving vital as an entrepreneur. “Being exposed to really unique existence tales was a good lesson due to the fact I felt it was Alright for me to get to out to anyone,” she says. “At Helios we have to develop a little something from scratch, so we have to assemble a ton of expertise, associates, traders and consumers, and be able to get to out to anyone for support, guidance or means.”

The MiM furnished a lesson in far more each day competencies, these kinds of as listening. There are plenty of major egos at business enterprise school, says Ménayas — a little something that was offered shorter shrift at the army camp to which students had been despatched to study about teamwork. “The soldiers informed us, ‘You are going to study how to shut up’,” she recollects.

Ménayas says she learnt to listen to other individuals in the group, as perfectly as to leaders. “As a supervisor and co-founder now, I think I mainly listen. Starting off to listen ahead of in fact major was a really good job lesson.”

The encounter of teamwork that the MiM furnished has also been priceless. “Today, our enterprise is all about setting up the very best crew, a single that is one hundred for every cent aligned with our goal but also proficient to deliver tangible outcomes,” she says. “The group perform, which was really powerful on the MiM, was really good teaching for that.”

Helios is off to a stable begin. The to start with round of fundraising brought in €1.5m and its three,five hundred end users throughout France, Belgium and Luxembourg have so significantly deposited €8m in current accounts, which expense €6 for every month to open up. But the business enterprise is younger and there are troubles ahead, these kinds of as recruitment, product or service, acquisition and boosting recognition amid buyers about how financial institutions use their funds.

But Ménayas stays characteristically ambitious: in five years she would like Helios to utilize one hundred-200 folks and “be considerably far more political than we are now”. Like the new financial institutions that started out up in the course of the industry’s digital revolution, Helios is on the “verge” of bringing a “sustainable revolution of banking”, Ménayas says, “proving that we can do issues in another way, that we can develop a clear and sustainable model and, hopefully, paving the way for the banking field to shift far more radically and faster”.


2020 Co-founder, Helios

2018-twenty Affiliate, Alven (enterprise cash firm)

2017-18 Guide, Boston Consulting Group (6-month internship)

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

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

2016-seventeen Private fairness analyst at Bpifrance (investment decision bank — 6-month internship)

2015 Small business-to-business enterprise product sales at Jam (on-line media company — summer months internship)