#Story
#Startups
#Sustainability

Win-Win

Work­ing as a team – Helaba and S-Ray

Frank­furt-based Arabesque S-Ray is build­ing a busi­ness fo­cused purely on the sus­tain­­abil­i­ty per­for­mance of com­pa­nies and how to rate it. Helaba’s equity in­vest­ment en­tity Helaba Digital de­cid­ed to invest in this par­ticu­lar start-up at the end of 2019 for a whole host of com­pelling reasons and has been pro­moting the co-operative re­­­lation­ship ever since in concert with the rel­e­vant product units at the Bank. We met the partners on a rain-streaked day in Frankfurt.

The ele­gant yet sub­stan­tial late 19th century build­ing is just about the exact op­po­site of what a recent start-up might be expected to call home. Located di­rect­ly across from the bo­tanic gardens in Frank­furt’s di­plo­matic quarter, it blends in seam­less­ly with the sur­round­ing consular offices. Step inside, how­ever, and the first sight to un­fold is not flags and diplo­matic for­mal­ity but the colour­ful tableau of Arabesque S-Ray’s de­vel­oper team working away in a bright and airy office that might per­haps once have been someone’s (large) living room. Some are deep in con­ver­sa­tion, a few have paired off to examine a print­out and others are poised in front of the screen, head­phones on, typing away in­tent­ly. We carry on up to the first floor, where we have ar­ranged to meet S-Ray CEO Andreas Feiner, Lucie Haß and Philipp Kaiser from Helaba Digital and Stephan Kloock, Head of Helaba’s Credit Risk Man­age­ment depart­ment and one of the func­tion­al sponsors of the equity invest­ment.

126

The number of start-ups examined by Helaba Digital in 2019.

"The ex­per­tise of Arabesque S-Ray comple­ments our own strengths. Reliable, data-driven sus­tain­abil­i­ty ratings are an im­portant issue for many of our customers."

Stephan Kloock, Head of Credit Risk Management department, Helaba

Unique com­bi­na­tion of rat­ings

Arabesque S-Ray spe­cialises in pre­paring mul­ti­di­men­sion­al cor­po­rate sus­tain­abil­i­ty ratings, which are coming to play an ever more im­por­tant role for in­vestors. “What we are inter­ested in is ana­lysing companies’ sus­tain­abil­ity per­formance com­pre­hen­sive­ly and making it more of a focal point,” em­phasises Andreas Feiner. “S-Ray does this by com­bining dif­fer­ent ratings and cri­teria and merging them in a com­pany-­spe­cific matrix that can be accessed online at any time.”
As well as looking at ESG scores (en­viron­mental, social and gover­nance), S-Ray examines the customer’s ethical pre­ferences and calculates a GC Score, which is derived from the UN Global Compact (GC) and in­di­cates how a com­pany con­­ducts itself in the areas of human and workers’ rights, en­viron­mental pro­tection and the avoid­ance of cor­ruption.
The start-up has de­vel­oped a unique rating all its own – the Tem­per­a­ture Score – and inte­grated it into S-Ray as well. Based on a com­pany’s CO2 emis­sions, the tem­per­a­ture score shows at a glance how a company’s ac­tiv­i­ties impact on the cli­­­mate. “We rate com­­panies on a scale of 1.5 to 3°C in line with the Paris cli­mate object­ives to pro­vide easy access to a trans­parent metric for a large target group,” the CEO ex­plains.

Stephan Kloock, Head of the Credit Risk Management department and functional sponsor of the equity investment, in conversation with Helaba Digital Managing Director Lucie Haß, S-Ray CEO Andreas Feiner and Helaba Digital Managing Director Philipp Kaiser.
Stephan Kloock, Head of the Credit Risk Management department and functional sponsor of the equity investment, in conversation with Helaba Digital Managing Director Lucie Haß, S-Ray CEO Andreas Feiner and Helaba Digital Managing Director Philipp Kaiser.

Valu­able knowl­edge-shar­ing

Turn­ing to his partners, Andreas Feiner adds, “The joint de­vel­op­ment work and two-way knowl­edge-shar­ing are ob­vious­ly im­por­tant factors in our co-operation and of course in Helaba we have gained not just a partner, but also a big and very inter­est­ing customer.” Lucie Haß nods in agree­ment: “S-Ray is use­ful for a number of dif­ferent Helaba units and sub­­sidiaries. Helaba Invest is looking into using it directly, for example, and we have already started dis­cus­sions with other po­ten­tial users.”The de­cept­ively simple S-Ray inter­face conceals a so­phis­ti­cat­ed system cap­able of sup­ply­ing the very latest sus­tain­abil­i­ty ratings at any time. “The al­gor­ithm we have de­vel­oped ana­lyses huge vol­­umes of data auto­mati­cal­ly in real time from over 30,000 sources: the com­panies them­selves, NGOs and relevant service pro­viders,” reports Andreas Feiner. “We are re­fining the under­lying pro­ces­ses con­tin­u­ous­ly through a com­bi­­na­tion of machine learn­ing and human controls.”
The start-up’s act­ivi­ties contri­bute valu­able ex­per­tise to the co-operative re­lation­ship with Helaba in three key areas: big data, sus­tain­abil­i­ty and arti­ficial in­tel­ligence. “All three of these do­mains are vitally im­portant for the future and of great inter­est to us, so when I heard what S-Ray was up to, I knew straight away that I had to find out more,” re­calls Stephan Kloock, “and it wasn’t long before I started asking col­leagues at Helaba Digital to explore the pos­si­bil­i­ty of invest­ing.”

Stephan Kloock, Head of  Helaba’s Credit Risk Management department
Stephan Kloock, Head of Helaba’s Credit Risk Management department
Arabesque S-Ray

"The pos­si­bil­i­­ty of us in­vest­ing in Arabesque S-Ray made quite a splash at the Bank last spring. The pros­pect sparked inter­est from all manner of dif­fer­ent units right across Helaba."

Philipp Kaiser, Managing Director, Helaba Digital

A high­ly promis­ing part­ner­ship

Once the initial step had been taken, things began to move very quickly: “The pos­si­bil­i­ty of us in­vest­ing in Arabesque S-Ray made quite a splash at the Bank last spring. The prospect sparked interest from all manner of dif­fer­ent units right across Helaba,” re­calls Philipp Kaiser. This proved a de­ci­sive factor, because the Board of Managing Directors also had to be con­vinced of the bene­fits of in­vest­ing. “The wide­spread en­thu­siasm among col­leagues strength­ened our case enor­mous­ly. Their in­spi­ra­tion and the ideas they had about how we might make use of the ratings in practice were very im­por­tant,” confirms Stephan Kloock. “The ex­pertise in these areas, to which we gain access through the re­lation­ship with Arabesque S-Ray, com­ple­ments our own strengths in bank­ing, regu­lation and product structur­ing. And reliable, data-driven sus­tain­abil­i­ty ratings are an im­por­tant issue for many of our cus­tomers.”

Philipp Kaiser, Managing Director, Helaba Digital
Philipp Kaiser, Managing Director, Helaba Digital

"Knowl­edge-shar­ing is an im­por­tant factor in our co-operation and of course in Helaba we have gained not just a partner, but also a big and very inter­esting cus­tomer."

Andreas Feiner, CEO of Arabesque S-Ray

Turning to his partners, Andreas Feiner adds, “The joint de­vel­op­ment work and two-way knowl­edge-shar­ing are ob­vious­ly im­por­tant factors in our co-operation and of course in Helaba we have gained not just a partner, but also a big and very interesting customer.” Lucie Haß nods in agree­ment: “S-Ray is use­ful for a number of dif­fer­ent Helaba units and sub­sidiaries. Helaba Invest is looking into using it directly, for example, and we have already started dis­cus­sions with other po­ten­tial users.”

Andreas Feiner, CEO of Arabesque S-Ray
Andreas Feiner, CEO of Arabesque S-Ray

"S-Ray is use­ful for a number of dif­fer­ent Helaba units and sub­sidiaries. Helaba Invest is look­ing into using it direct­ly, for example, and we have already started dis­cus­sions with other poten­tial users."

Lucie Haß, Managing Director, Helaba Digital

Ambitious plans

The co-operative re­lation­ship between Helaba and its start-up partner will continue to grow and spread to more and more of the Bank’s oper­at­ing di­visions. It is no wonder Andreas Feiner has big plans. S-Ray rates around 7,000 of the world’s biggest com­panies at the moment and intends to in­crease this to 100,000 com­panies over the next few years. The actual rating is still evolv­ing too: “We are cur­rent­ly work­ing on a plat­form to enable com­panies to publish their own sus­tain­abil­i­ty data, which will further en­hance our data sources. We are also develop­ing a sus­tain­abil­i­ty rating speci­fical­ly for real estate in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Helaba and other partners,” con­cludes Andreas Feiner, whose plans to advance these develop­ments and keep Arabesque S-Ray in the as­cen­dant include spend­ing a couple of months in Silicon Valley as soon as possible this year to dis­cover what in­spi­ra­tion the epi­centre of the start-up scene can provide.

Phillip Kaiser and Lucie Hass in conversation

Teaming up to add value

Lucie Haß and Philipp Kaiser are the managing directors of Helaba Digital, a subsidiary focusing on investments in start-ups and technologies.

Lucie Haß, Managing Director, Helaba Digital
Lucie Haß, Managing Director, Helaba Digital

Sustainability

As an insti­tu­tion under public law, Helaba sees sus­tain­abil­i­ty as the core of its busi­ness and the start­ing point of every cus­tomer re­lation­ship.

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