A business graduate’s bid to make banking greener

Julia Ménayas followed a perfectly-trodden route out of small business school, getting to be an associate in a venture capital agency. But in March 2020, just as she listened to about “something termed Covid”, she give up to established up a banking providers enterprise focusing on sustainability.

Launching Helios was an formidable transfer by the 27-year-outdated Parisian, who only graduated from her masters in administration (MiM) at HEC Paris in 2018. For the to start with 4 months, the small business comprised just Ménayas and her co-founder, Maeva Courtois, doing the job from Courtois’ kitchen area, noticed by the cat.

But Ménayas was pushed by the need to go after a job that would be about building social benefit, alternatively than only generating a revenue — an outlook that came in component from her time at small business school.

When she began at HEC Paris, she felt like one of the “lucky ones”, and the study course taught her to turn that into a feeling of social responsibility.

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Via her work expertise — like at start-ups as perfectly as in venture capital and consulting — she was drawn to the engineering sector. But tech did not satisfy her need to build social benefit. She describes the marketplace as “very weird”, and even though there is significant social responsibility as an investor — choosing which industries and providers will prosper, what new positions will be created and aiding to condition the broader economic path — “somehow we had been not proudly owning it at all”, she states.

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

So Ménayas returned to what she was taught on her MiM. “Leaving a VC — with really superior existence earnings — was tough,” she states. “But when it did not make feeling in phrases of [social] responsibility, I remembered what I had been taught on the MiM and how we had to think not about salary but the benefit we could carry,” she states.

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

Customers pay out a payment to open up an account and Helios pledges hardly ever to invest their deposits in industries that add to the local climate disaster or damage biodiversity. “We do rather the reverse,” Ménayas states. “We only immediate our funding toward industries related to the ecological changeover.” Symbolically, the to start with lender playing 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 lender playing cards are created from sustainable cherrywood

One more intention of Helios is to increase consciousness amongst shoppers about in which banks invest their deposits. When people today contemplate world wide warming, Ménayas states, they have a tendency to think of the impact of the automotive or aviation industries, but couple of search at which providers banks fund making use of customers’ cash.

“The banking marketplace transforms people’s deposits into lengthy-term investments in the genuine financial state and, by choosing to finance industries like coal-fired electric power or gas extraction, [banks] truly have a lot of responsibility in regards to our foreseeable future,” she argues.

Ménayas credits small business school with opening up prospects and inspiring her to be bolder. Along with accessibility to a network of start-ups, VCs and business owners, HEC Paris promoted a “learn to dare” ethos that she states she appreciated. “The school opens up your head to making something and not fearing the unidentified,” Ménayas states. “That was a superior setting up issue to leave traditional marketplace powering and start something additional adventurous.”

Julia Ménayas © ©Magali Delporte

Indeed, her suggestions to possible MiM students — alongside being curious and open up to getting courses in a variety of topics outside of finance — is to expend a third of their time in the classroom and two-thirds chatting to classmates, instructors and speakers.

Tapping into this network gave Ménayas the assurance and attitude to look for assist when she demands it — something that is proving important as an entrepreneur. “Being exposed to really different existence stories was a superior lesson because I felt it was Ok for me to arrive at out to any person,” she states. “At Helios we have to build something from scratch, so we have to gather a lot of expertise, companions, traders and customers, and be ready to arrive at out to any person for aid, suggestions or resources.”

The MiM supplied a lesson in additional day-to-day capabilities, these types of as listening. There are plenty of big egos at small business school, states Ménayas — something that was presented limited shrift at the armed forces camp to which students had been despatched to master about teamwork. “The soldiers advised us, ‘You are going to master how to shut up’,” she recollects.

Ménayas states she learnt to pay attention to some others in the team, as perfectly as to leaders. “As a supervisor and co-founder now, I think I primarily pay attention. Setting up to pay attention right before truly leading was a really superior job lesson.”

The expertise of teamwork that the MiM supplied has also been invaluable. “Today, our venture is all about making the greatest crew, one that is one hundred for each cent aligned with our purpose but also competent to produce tangible results,” she states. “The team work, which was really rigorous on the MiM, was really superior education for that.”

Helios is off to a solid start. The to start with spherical of fundraising brought in €1.5m and its three,five hundred customers throughout France, Belgium and Luxembourg have so significantly deposited €8m in latest accounts, which value €6 for each thirty day period to open up. But the small business is youthful and there are difficulties ahead, these types of as recruitment, item, acquisition and elevating consciousness amongst shoppers about how banks use their cash.

But Ménayas continues to be characteristically formidable: in 5 yrs she would like Helios to hire one hundred-two hundred people today and “be substantially additional political than we are now”. Like the new banks that began up all through the industry’s electronic revolution, Helios is on the “verge” of bringing a “sustainable revolution of banking”, Ménayas states, “proving that we can do things in a different way, that we can build a clear and sustainable model and, hopefully, paving the way for the banking marketplace to shift additional radically and faster”.


2020 Co-founder, Helios

2018-20 Associate, Alven (venture capital agency)

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

2017 Analyst, Knife Money (venture capital fund — 6-thirty day period internship)

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

2016-seventeen Private fairness analyst at Bpifrance (investment decision lender — 6-thirty day period internship)

2015 Business-to-small business sales at Jam (on the web media enterprise — summertime internship)