Built Business Tough

A business graduate’s bid to make banking greener

Julia Ménayas adopted a properly-trodden route out of enterprise university, starting to be an affiliate in a undertaking funds company. But in March 2020, just as she listened to about “something referred to as Covid”, she quit to set up a banking expert services corporation concentrating on sustainability.

Launching Helios was an formidable move by the 27-year-previous Parisian, who only graduated from her masters in management (MiM) at HEC Paris in 2018. For the very first 4 months, the enterprise comprised just Ménayas and her co-founder, Maeva Courtois, working from Courtois’ kitchen, noticed by the cat.

But Ménayas was driven by the wish to pursue a career that would be about producing social benefit, instead than just earning a gain — an outlook that came in section from her time at enterprise university.

When she started off at HEC Paris, she felt like a person of the “lucky ones”, and the program taught her to change that into a sense of social responsibility.

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Via her operate experience — together with at start off-ups as properly as in undertaking funds and consulting — she was drawn to the technologies sector. But tech did not meet up with her wish to make social benefit. She describes the market as “very weird”, and when there is substantial social responsibility as an investor — picking out which industries and providers will prosper, what new employment will be created and serving to to condition the broader financial path — “somehow we were being not proudly owning 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 incredibly fantastic lifetime earnings — was difficult,” she states. “But when it did not make sense in conditions of [social] responsibility, I remembered what I experienced been taught on the MiM and how we experienced to believe not about wage but the benefit we could deliver,” she states.

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

Prospects pay out a price to open an account and Helios pledges by no means to devote their deposits in industries that contribute to the local weather disaster or harm biodiversity. “We do quite the opposite,” Ménayas states. “We only direct our funding towards industries similar to the ecological changeover.” Symbolically, the very first bank playing cards are built of cherrywood sourced from sustainable forests in Europe.

A Visa card made of cherrywood
Cherry on top: The company’s very first bank playing cards are built from sustainable cherrywood

One more goal of Helios is to raise awareness among the buyers about in which banking institutions devote their deposits. When people today consider world warming, Ménayas states, they are likely to believe of the impact of the automotive or aviation industries, but several appear at which providers banking institutions fund utilizing customers’ dollars.

“The banking market transforms people’s deposits into extended-time period investments in the authentic economic system and, by picking out to finance industries like coal-fired electrical power or gas extraction, [banking institutions] truly have a whole lot of responsibility in regards to our foreseeable future,” she argues.

Ménayas credits enterprise university with opening up alternatives and inspiring her to be bolder. Along with accessibility to a network of start off-ups, VCs and business owners, HEC Paris promoted a “learn to dare” ethos that she states she appreciated. “The university opens up your mind to setting up one thing and not fearing the unidentified,” Ménayas states. “That was a fantastic starting stage to leave conventional market guiding and start off one thing much more adventurous.”

Julia Ménayas © ©Magali Delporte

Indeed, her advice to future MiM learners — together with becoming curious and open to using classes in a variety of subjects over and above finance — is to spend a third of their time in the classroom and two-thirds speaking to classmates, lecturers and speakers.

Tapping into this network gave Ménayas the self confidence and mentality to look for assist when she requires it — one thing that is proving important as an entrepreneur. “Being exposed to incredibly distinctive lifetime tales was a fantastic lesson because I felt it was Ok for me to achieve out to any person,” she states. “At Helios we have to develop one thing from scratch, so we have to get a whole lot of expertise, associates, investors and customers, and be in a position to achieve out to any person for assist, advice or assets.”

The MiM presented a lesson in much more every day competencies, these types of as listening. There are a good deal of huge egos at enterprise university, states Ménayas — one thing that was provided quick shrift at the military camp to which learners were being despatched to understand about teamwork. “The soldiers told us, ‘You are likely to understand how to shut up’,” she recollects.

Ménayas states she learnt to hear to others in the group, as properly as to leaders. “As a supervisor and co-founder now, I believe I generally hear. Commencing to hear in advance of truly major was a incredibly fantastic career lesson.”

The experience of teamwork that the MiM presented has also been priceless. “Today, our undertaking is all about setting up the finest workforce, a person that is a hundred for every cent aligned with our objective but also capable to provide tangible benefits,” she states. “The group operate, which was incredibly intense on the MiM, was incredibly fantastic coaching for that.”

Helios is off to a strong start off. The very first round of fundraising introduced in €1.5m and its 3,five hundred end users throughout France, Belgium and Luxembourg have so much deposited €8m in current accounts, which charge €6 for every month to open. But the enterprise is young and there are issues forward, these types of as recruitment, products, acquisition and elevating awareness among the buyers about how banking institutions use their dollars.

But Ménayas stays characteristically formidable: in five yrs she wishes Helios to hire a hundred-two hundred people today and “be substantially much more political than we are now”. Like the new banking institutions that started off up throughout the industry’s electronic revolution, Helios is on the “verge” of bringing a “sustainable revolution of banking”, Ménayas states, “proving that we can do factors in a different way, that we can develop a clear and sustainable model and, ideally, paving the way for the banking market to shift much more radically and faster”.


2020 Co-founder, Helios

2018-twenty Affiliate, Alven (undertaking funds company)

2017-eighteen Expert, Boston Consulting Group (six-month internship)

2017 Analyst, Knife Money (undertaking funds fund — six-month internship)

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

2016-17 Non-public equity analyst at Bpifrance (investment bank — six-month internship)

2015 Business enterprise-to-enterprise profits at Jam (on the web media corporation — summertime internship)