A business graduate’s bid to make banking greener

Joseph B. Hash

Julia Ménayas followed a perfectly-trodden route out of business school, starting to be an affiliate in a undertaking capital agency. But in March 2020, just as she listened to about “something called Covid”, she give up to established up a banking solutions enterprise focusing on sustainability. Launching Helios was an […]

Julia Ménayas followed a perfectly-trodden route out of business school, starting to be an affiliate in a undertaking capital agency. But in March 2020, just as she listened to about “something called Covid”, she give up to established up a banking solutions enterprise focusing on sustainability.

Launching Helios was an bold move by the 27-year-previous Parisian, who only graduated from her masters in management (MiM) at HEC Paris in 2018. For the to start with four months, the business comprised just Ménayas and her co-founder, Maeva Courtois, performing from Courtois’ kitchen area, noticed by the cat.

But Ménayas was driven by the motivation to go after a occupation that would be about building social worth, alternatively than simply producing 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 class taught her to turn that into a sense of social obligation.

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By means of her perform knowledge — like at commence-ups as perfectly as in undertaking capital and consulting — she was drawn to the technological know-how sector. But tech did not fulfill her motivation to make social worth. She describes the field as “very weird”, and even though there is substantial social obligation as an investor — picking out which industries and organizations will thrive, what new careers will be created and helping to shape the broader economic way — “somehow we had been not possessing it at all”, she says.

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 incredibly fantastic life earnings — was challenging,” she says. “But when it did not make sense in terms of [social] obligation, I remembered what I experienced been taught on the MiM and how we experienced to believe not about income but the worth we could provide,” she says.

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

Prospects shell out a rate to open an account and Helios pledges under no circumstances to commit their deposits in industries that add to the climate disaster or harm biodiversity. “We do very the opposite,” Ménayas says. “We only direct our funding in direction of industries connected to the ecological transition.” Symbolically, the to start with lender playing cards are made of cherrywood sourced from sustainable forests in Europe.

A Visa card made of cherrywood
Cherry on prime: The company’s to start with lender playing cards are made from sustainable cherrywood

Yet another intention of Helios is to increase consciousness between customers about where by financial institutions commit their deposits. When men and women consider global warming, Ménayas says, they are inclined to believe of the impression of the automotive or aviation industries, but few appear at which organizations financial institutions fund applying customers’ income.

“The banking field transforms people’s deposits into extensive-time period investments in the actual economic system and, by picking out to finance industries like coal-fired electric power or gasoline extraction, [financial institutions] truly have a lot of obligation in regards to our long term,” she argues.

Ménayas credits business school with opening up options and inspiring her to be bolder. Alongside accessibility to a community of commence-ups, VCs and business owners, HEC Paris promoted a “learn to dare” ethos that she says she appreciated. “The school opens up your brain to setting up something and not fearing the not known,” Ménayas says. “That was a fantastic commencing point to depart typical field powering and commence something additional adventurous.”

Julia Ménayas © ©Magali Delporte

In truth, her suggestions to prospective MiM learners — together with currently being curious and open to taking courses in a wide range of topics further than finance — is to invest a third of their time in the classroom and two-thirds chatting to classmates, academics and speakers.

Tapping into this community gave Ménayas the self esteem and mindset to seek out support when she demands it — something that is proving essential as an entrepreneur. “Being uncovered to incredibly different life stories was a fantastic lesson due to the fact I felt it was Okay for me to attain out to anybody,” she says. “At Helios we have to make something from scratch, so we have to get a lot of talent, partners, investors and clients, and be able to attain out to anybody for enable, suggestions or resources.”

The MiM furnished a lesson in additional daily skills, this sort of as listening. There are lots of significant egos at business school, says Ménayas — something that was given brief shrift at the army camp to which learners had been despatched to understand about teamwork. “The soldiers told us, ‘You are heading to understand how to shut up’,” she remembers.

Ménayas says she learnt to hear to other folks in the team, as perfectly as to leaders. “As a supervisor and co-founder now, I believe I largely hear. Starting off to hear before truly primary was a incredibly fantastic occupation lesson.”

The knowledge of teamwork that the MiM furnished has also been a must have. “Today, our undertaking is all about setting up the best crew, one particular that is one hundred for every cent aligned with our intent but also knowledgeable to produce tangible effects,” she says. “The team perform, which was incredibly intense on the MiM, was incredibly fantastic education for that.”

Helios is off to a stable commence. The to start with spherical of fundraising introduced in €1.5m and its three,500 customers throughout France, Belgium and Luxembourg have so much deposited €8m in existing accounts, which cost €6 for every month to open. But the business is youthful and there are worries forward, this sort of as recruitment, products, acquisition and elevating consciousness between customers about how financial institutions use their income.

But Ménayas continues to be characteristically bold: in 5 yrs she needs Helios to employ one hundred-two hundred men and women and “be significantly additional political than we are now”. Like the new financial institutions that started out up for the duration 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 items otherwise, that we can make a transparent and sustainable product and, hopefully, paving the way for the banking field to change additional radically and faster”.

CV

2020 Co-founder, Helios

2018-20 Affiliate, Alven (undertaking capital agency)

2017-eighteen Specialist, Boston Consulting Group (6-month internship)

2017 Analyst, Knife Funds (undertaking capital fund — 6-month internship)

2014-eighteen Masters in management, HEC Paris (section of a double degree in company and general public management science at Sciences Po)

2016-seventeen Personal equity analyst at Bpifrance (investment decision lender — 6-month internship)

2015 Business-to-business sales at Jam (on line media enterprise — summer season internship)

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