Saved By Business

A business graduate’s bid to make banking greener

6 min read

Julia Ménayas followed a nicely-trodden path out of enterprise faculty, turning into an associate in a venture money organization. But in March 2020, just as she heard about “something termed Covid”, she give up to established up a banking providers enterprise concentrating on sustainability.

Launching Helios was an formidable shift by the 27-calendar year-old Parisian, who only graduated from her masters in administration (MiM) at HEC Paris in 2018. For the initial 4 months, the enterprise comprised just Ménayas and her co-founder, Maeva Courtois, functioning from Courtois’ kitchen area, observed by the cat.

But Ménayas was driven by the motivation to pursue a job that would be about building social value, fairly than just generating a profit — an outlook that came in element from her time at business faculty.

When she started out at HEC Paris, she felt like 1 of the “lucky ones”, and the study course taught her to turn that into a perception of social obligation.

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Via her get the job done encounter — including at start-ups as properly as in undertaking funds and consulting — she was drawn to the technological know-how sector. But tech did not meet her drive to develop social worth. She describes the business as “very weird”, and although there is considerable social accountability as an trader — picking out which industries and organizations will thrive, what new employment will be designed and aiding to condition the broader economic direction — “somehow we ended up not proudly owning it at all”, she claims.

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

So Ménayas returned to what she was taught on her MiM. “Leaving a VC — with very excellent life earnings — was rough,” she says. “But when it did not make sense in terms of [social] responsibility, I remembered what I had been taught on the MiM and how we had to assume not about salary but the worth we could convey,” she suggests.

Helios, which provides its companies in partnership with German banking computer software enterprise Solaris, is someplace “between an NGO [non-governmental organisation] in conditions of aspiration and purpose” and a business enterprise “because we have to be sustainable somehow”, states Ménayas.

Clients fork out a charge to open an account and Helios pledges by no means to spend their deposits in industries that add to the local climate crisis or damage biodiversity. “We do rather the reverse,” Ménayas states. “We only direct our funding toward industries similar to the ecological transition.” Symbolically, the initial lender playing cards are designed of cherrywood sourced from sustainable forests in Europe.

A Visa card made of cherrywood
Cherry on leading: The company’s initial lender cards are produced from sustainable cherrywood

Yet another intention of Helios is to increase consciousness between people about where by banks spend their deposits. When people today contemplate global warming, Ménayas says, they tend to imagine of the affect of the automotive or aviation industries, but number of seem at which corporations banks fund using customers’ funds.

“The banking field transforms people’s deposits into extensive-phrase investments in the genuine financial system and, by picking to finance industries like coal-fired ability or gasoline extraction, [banks] truly have a whole lot of responsibility in regards to our long run,” she argues.

Ménayas credits enterprise school with opening up options and inspiring her to be bolder. Along with access to a network of start-ups, VCs and business owners, HEC Paris promoted a “learn to dare” ethos that she states she appreciated. “The university opens up your intellect to constructing anything and not fearing the unidentified,” Ménayas claims. “That was a superior commencing level to leave regular sector driving and commence something a lot more adventurous.”

Julia Ménayas © ©Magali Delporte

Without a doubt, her guidance to potential MiM students — together with staying curious and open to taking courses in a selection of subjects beyond finance — is to invest a third of their time in the classroom and two-thirds conversing to classmates, lecturers and speakers.

Tapping into this community gave Ménayas the self-assurance and attitude to look for assistance when she needs it — one thing that is proving important as an entrepreneur. “Being exposed to incredibly distinctive life stories was a fantastic lesson simply because I felt it was Okay for me to get to out to anyone,” she suggests. “At Helios we have to establish something from scratch, so we have to obtain a good deal of expertise, associates, buyers and customers, and be able to access out to any person for assist, suggestions or methods.”

The MiM presented a lesson in extra day-to-day techniques, these as listening. There are plenty of huge egos at business enterprise college, claims Ménayas — anything that was specified shorter shrift at the navy camp to which college students had been despatched to find out about teamwork. “The soldiers instructed us, ‘You are likely to study how to shut up’,” she remembers.

Ménayas says she learnt to listen to some others in the group, as properly as to leaders. “As a supervisor and co-founder now, I feel I mainly listen. Starting off to pay attention just before truly top was a incredibly very good occupation lesson.”

The experience of teamwork that the MiM supplied has also been invaluable. “Today, our venture is all about building the greatest staff, a person that is 100 for each cent aligned with our function but also qualified to supply tangible success,” she claims. “The group do the job, which was incredibly intensive on the MiM, was incredibly superior education for that.”

Helios is off to a good start out. The first round of fundraising brought in €1.5m and its 3,500 consumers throughout France, Belgium and Luxembourg have so significantly deposited €8m in recent accounts, which cost €6 per thirty day period to open. But the small business is younger and there are troubles ahead, this sort of as recruitment, solution, acquisition and boosting recognition amongst people about how banks use their funds.

But Ménayas continues to be characteristically bold: in five a long time she would like Helios to employ 100-200 folks and “be a lot far more political than we are now”. Like the new financial institutions that commenced up for the duration of the industry’s digital revolution, Helios is on the “verge” of bringing a “sustainable revolution of banking”, Ménayas claims, “proving that we can do points in a different way, that we can develop a clear and sustainable design and, hopefully, paving the way for the banking sector to shift additional radically and faster”.


2020 Co-founder, Helios

2018-20 Associate, Alven (undertaking money firm)

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

2017 Analyst, Knife Funds (undertaking capital fund — 6-thirty day period internship)

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

2016-17 Personal fairness analyst at Bpifrance (financial commitment lender — six-month internship)

2015 Business enterprise-to-small business gross sales at Jam (online media firm — summer season internship)