A business graduate’s bid to make banking greener

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Julia Ménayas followed a perfectly-trodden route out of enterprise college, becoming an associate in a undertaking funds firm. But in March 2020, just as she read about “something identified as Covid”, she quit to set up a banking services company focusing on sustainability.

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

But Ménayas was pushed by the motivation to pursue a career that would be about creating social price, rather than basically creating a profit — an outlook that came in section from her time at enterprise college.

When she begun 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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Via her get the job done encounter — which include at begin-ups as perfectly as in undertaking funds and consulting — she was drawn to the technological know-how sector. But tech did not meet up with her motivation to create social price. She describes the business as “very weird”, and although there is important social obligation as an trader — selecting which industries and corporations will thrive, what new employment will be designed and assisting to form the broader economic path — “somehow we have been not possessing it at all”, she states.

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

So Ménayas returned to what she was taught on her MiM. “Leaving a VC — with pretty great lifestyle earnings — was tough,” she states. “But when it did not make sense in conditions of [social] obligation, I remembered what I experienced been taught on the MiM and how we experienced to assume not about wage but the price we could bring,” she states.

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

Buyers pay back a charge to open up an account and Helios pledges never to devote their deposits in industries that contribute to the local weather disaster or harm biodiversity. “We do rather the opposite,” Ménayas states. “We only immediate our funding towards industries related to the ecological transition.” Symbolically, the first bank cards are designed of cherrywood sourced from sustainable forests in Europe.

A Visa card made of cherrywood
Cherry on leading: The company’s first bank cards are designed from sustainable cherrywood

A different intention of Helios is to elevate recognition amongst consumers about the place banking companies devote their deposits. When folks take into account global warming, Ménayas states, they are likely to assume of the influence of the automotive or aviation industries, but few seem at which corporations banking companies fund working with customers’ funds.

“The banking business transforms people’s deposits into extensive-expression investments in the serious overall economy and, by selecting to finance industries like coal-fired electric power or gasoline extraction, [banking companies] truly have a large amount of obligation in regards to our upcoming,” she argues.

Ménayas credits enterprise college with opening up options and inspiring her to be bolder. Together with accessibility to a network of begin-ups, VCs and business owners, HEC Paris promoted a “learn to dare” ethos that she states she appreciated. “The college opens up your thoughts to creating some thing and not fearing the not known,” Ménayas states. “That was a great setting up stage to leave traditional business behind and begin some thing far more adventurous.”

Julia Ménayas © ©Magali Delporte

In fact, her guidance to possible MiM learners — together with being curious and open up to getting programs in a wide variety of subjects outside of finance — is to expend a 3rd of their time in the classroom and two-thirds speaking to classmates, lecturers and speakers.

Tapping into this network gave Ménayas the self esteem and state of mind to seek help when she needs it — some thing that is proving critical as an entrepreneur. “Being uncovered to pretty distinctive lifestyle tales was a great lesson for the reason that I felt it was Alright for me to get to out to any one,” she states. “At Helios we have to construct some thing from scratch, so we have to gather a large amount of talent, partners, traders and purchasers, and be capable to get to out to any one for assist, guidance or sources.”

The MiM supplied a lesson in far more every day techniques, these as listening. There are plenty of major egos at enterprise college, states Ménayas — some thing that was offered shorter shrift at the navy camp to which learners have been despatched to understand about teamwork. “The soldiers instructed us, ‘You are going to understand how to shut up’,” she recalls.

Ménayas states she learnt to pay attention to many others in the team, as perfectly as to leaders. “As a supervisor and co-founder now, I assume I largely pay attention. Starting up to pay attention in advance of truly top was a pretty great career lesson.”

The encounter of teamwork that the MiM supplied has also been invaluable. “Today, our undertaking is all about creating the finest crew, one particular that is 100 for every cent aligned with our intent but also knowledgeable to deliver tangible final results,” she states. “The team get the job done, which was pretty powerful on the MiM, was pretty great coaching for that.”

Helios is off to a stable begin. The first spherical of fundraising brought in €1.5m and its 3,five hundred customers across France, Belgium and Luxembourg have so significantly deposited €8m in current accounts, which price €6 for every thirty day period to open up. But the enterprise is young and there are worries ahead, these as recruitment, solution, acquisition and raising recognition amongst consumers about how banking companies use their funds.

But Ménayas stays characteristically bold: in five years she wishes Helios to use 100-200 folks and “be substantially far more political than we are now”. Like the new banking companies that begun up during the industry’s digital revolution, Helios is on the “verge” of bringing a “sustainable revolution of banking”, Ménayas states, “proving that we can do matters in another way, that we can construct a clear and sustainable model and, ideally, paving the way for the banking business to shift far more radically and faster”.


2020 Co-founder, Helios

2018-twenty Associate, Alven (undertaking funds firm)

2017-18 Specialist, Boston Consulting Team (six-thirty day period internship)

2017 Analyst, Knife Capital (undertaking funds fund — six-thirty day period internship)

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

2016-seventeen Personal equity analyst at Bpifrance (expenditure bank — six-thirty day period internship)

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