A business graduate’s bid to make banking greener

Elvera Bartels

Julia Ménayas followed a perfectly-trodden path out of business faculty, getting an associate in a venture cash agency. But in March 2020, just as she read about “something called Covid”, she give up to set up a banking products and services business concentrating on sustainability.

Launching Helios was an bold move by the 27-calendar year-aged Parisian, who only graduated from her masters in administration (MiM) at HEC Paris in 2018. For the initial four months, the business comprised just Ménayas and her co-founder, Maeva Courtois, functioning from Courtois’ kitchen area, observed by the cat.

But Ménayas was driven by the desire to go after a vocation that would be about making social benefit, fairly than only making a earnings — an outlook that arrived in section from her time at business faculty.

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

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By means of her function encounter — such as at begin-ups as perfectly as in venture cash and consulting — she was drawn to the technological know-how sector. But tech did not meet her desire to make social benefit. She describes the industry as “very weird”, and although there is major social obligation as an trader — deciding upon which industries and companies will thrive, what new positions will be developed and aiding to shape the broader economic route — “somehow we were being not owning it at all”, she suggests.

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

So Ménayas returned to what she was taught on her MiM. “Leaving a VC — with quite very good daily life earnings — was tough,” she suggests. “But when it did not make feeling in conditions of [social] obligation, I remembered what I had been taught on the MiM and how we had to assume not about salary but the benefit we could convey,” she suggests.

Helios, which supplies its products and services in partnership with German banking application business Solaris, is somewhere “between an NGO [non-governmental organisation] in conditions of aspiration and purpose” and a business “because we have to be sustainable somehow”, suggests Ménayas.

Customers shell out a price to open up an account and Helios pledges never to commit their deposits in industries that lead to the weather crisis or hurt biodiversity. “We do quite the reverse,” Ménayas suggests. “We only direct our funding toward industries linked to the ecological changeover.” Symbolically, the initial bank cards are designed of cherrywood sourced from sustainable forests in Europe.

A Visa card made of cherrywood
Cherry on top rated: The company’s initial bank cards are designed from sustainable cherrywood

An additional purpose of Helios is to increase consciousness amid customers about the place banking institutions commit their deposits. When people take into account world wide warming, Ménayas suggests, they tend to assume of the effects of the automotive or aviation industries, but few search at which companies banking institutions fund employing customers’ cash.

“The banking industry transforms people’s deposits into extensive-phrase investments in the serious financial system and, by deciding upon to finance industries like coal-fired energy or gasoline extraction, [banking institutions] really have a ton of obligation in regards to our foreseeable future,” she argues.

Ménayas credits business faculty with opening up possibilities and inspiring her to be bolder. Along with access to a community of begin-ups, VCs and entrepreneurs, HEC Paris promoted a “learn to dare” ethos that she suggests she appreciated. “The faculty opens up your mind to making a thing and not fearing the unknown,” Ménayas suggests. “That was a very good beginning issue to go away conventional industry powering and begin a thing a lot more adventurous.”

Julia Ménayas © ©Magali Delporte

In truth, her advice to future MiM learners — along with currently being curious and open up to using courses in a wide range of topics over and above finance — is to invest a third of their time in the classroom and two-thirds talking to classmates, academics and speakers.

Tapping into this community gave Ménayas the self confidence and frame of mind to find guidance when she requirements it — a thing that is proving crucial as an entrepreneur. “Being exposed to quite various daily life stories was a very good lesson for the reason that I felt it was Okay for me to attain out to anyone,” she suggests. “At Helios we have to develop a thing from scratch, so we have to gather a ton of expertise, associates, buyers and customers, and be in a position to attain out to anyone for enable, advice or means.”

The MiM presented a lesson in a lot more every day skills, this kind of as listening. There are a good deal of big egos at business faculty, suggests Ménayas — a thing that was supplied limited shrift at the military camp to which learners were being sent to understand about teamwork. “The troopers explained to us, ‘You are going to understand how to shut up’,” she remembers.

Ménayas suggests she learnt to listen to many others in the team, as perfectly as to leaders. “As a supervisor and co-founder now, I assume I generally listen. Setting up to listen before really foremost was a quite very good vocation lesson.”

The encounter of teamwork that the MiM presented has also been priceless. “Today, our venture is all about making the finest staff, a single that is one hundred for every cent aligned with our function but also competent to supply tangible final results,” she suggests. “The team function, which was quite powerful on the MiM, was quite very good schooling for that.”

Helios is off to a stable begin. The initial spherical of fundraising introduced in €1.5m and its three,five hundred people throughout France, Belgium and Luxembourg have so far deposited €8m in recent accounts, which charge €6 for every thirty day period to open up. But the business is younger and there are difficulties ahead, this kind of as recruitment, product or service, acquisition and raising consciousness amid customers about how banking institutions use their cash.

But Ménayas continues to be characteristically bold: in five years she wishes Helios to utilize one hundred-200 people and “be substantially a lot more political than we are now”. Like the new banking institutions that commenced up during the industry’s digital revolution, Helios is on the “verge” of bringing a “sustainable revolution of banking”, Ménayas suggests, “proving that we can do things in another way, that we can develop a clear and sustainable model and, ideally, paving the way for the banking industry to change a lot more radically and faster”.


2020 Co-founder, Helios

2018-20 Associate, Alven (venture cash agency)

2017-18 Expert, Boston Consulting Group (6-thirty day period internship)

2017 Analyst, Knife Funds (venture cash fund — 6-thirty day period internship)

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

2016-17 Personal fairness analyst at Bpifrance (financial commitment bank — 6-thirty day period internship)

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

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