The world of finance in general, and banking in particular, has a key role in financing the ecological transition. And Helios, a French online bank that has been in existence for a year, is striving to clean up banking in the fight against climate change. Julia Ménayas, founder of Helios, tells Feat-Y about the strategy put in place to finance economic projects in line with the ecological transition and the interest for individuals to open an account, thus contributing to ecological investments. Interview.
Feat-Y: What made you decide to found Helios and why this name for your bank?
Julia Ménayas : Helios was born from an observation. Finance pollutes more than our consumption. The latest report by Oxfam France talks about this. We saw this from the inside because we come from the finance industry and we saw that banks talk a lot about the climate, about responsible investment, but they continue to invest massively in fossil fuels – coal, oil, gas – which represent the major part of our carbon emissions. In concrete terms, in finance, we are not going fast enough, we are not going far enough to position ourselves on a trajectory of 1.5°C or 2 degrees, which is the one promised by the Paris Agreement. That’s what Helios is all about, cleaning up the bank, and that’s what we’ve been working on for a year.
Feat-Y: You indicate that Helios finances companies working for the ecological transition “in a concrete way”. What are the award criteria?
J.M: At Helios, there is no obscure methodology. The way we invest is very simple. Our first commitment is transparency. At Helios, you know where your money is going and what it is financing. In the banking application, you will find a list of all the projects that have been financed, their environmental and social benefits. We do not finance sectors linked to global warming, which threaten biodiversity and human beings. For example, fossil fuels, but also chemical pesticides, intensive breeding or armaments. Conversely, we direct our funding exclusively towards sectors that are driving the ecological transition. We finance companies and projects whose main activity is one of the transition themes. For example, the energy efficiency of public and private buildings, soft mobility, public transport, waste treatment or renewable energy, where it makes sense. It is the waste treatment and recycling sector. It is also renewable energy, in the territories where it makes sense.
Feat-Y: What are the advantages for individuals potentially interested in opening an account with Helios?
J.M : There are many advantages to opening an account with Helios. The first is to clean up your money. The second is to regain control of your money, by following precisely what you are financing. Then, the Helios account includes all the classic services of an online bank. You can follow the activities of your account in real time, you can manage your card options, your limit from the application. Finally it’s simple! You can open an account in eight minutes from the mobile application and start financing the ecological transition from the first euro.
Feat-Y: Is Helios connected with a traditional commercial bank?
J.M: Helios is an independent project, not linked to any traditional bank. The objective is to remain independent and to be able to make investment choices that are in line with the ecological transition, in complete independence. We are backed by a technological player called Solarisbank, which holds a banking license that allows us to create financing for the transition.
Feat-Y: You mention a partnership with the German bank Solarisbank. Why this partnership and is it easier to domicile Helios in France rather than in Germany?
J.M: Helios is a French company based in Paris and Nantes, which has been in existence for a year. Indeed, to be able to offer an account product, one cannot become a bank overnight. It requires a lot of capital, an army of analysts, a compliance officer, etc. It is important to be able to adapt to the new market. It is important to be able to rely on a player that has a banking license. And Solarisbank is a technological player that provides us with a payment technology and that is, in the eyes of the regulations, a bank based in Berlin but also registered in France by the ACPR, which allows it to market its products in France.
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