Durreen Shahnaz stands out as a beacon of defiance and hope in the world of finance, where profit frequently takes precedent over purpose. Shahnaz is the founder and CEO of Singapore’s Impact Investment Exchange (IIX). She has devoted her professional life to transforming conventional financial systems so that everyone, not just the wealthy few, can benefit. In this piece, we examine Shahnaz’s extraordinary journey and the lessons India might take away from her observations on how to gauge social effect in the financial markets.
A Journey of a Defiant Optimist
In 1989, Durreen Shahnaz, a self-described “defiant optimist,” broke stereotypes by becoming the first Bangladeshi woman to work on Wall Street. Bold decisions she made along the way led her to start oneNest, an online marketplace that connects buyers and craftspeople, and to work with Grameen on microfinance in rural Bangladesh. Her greatest accomplishment was founding the Impact Investment Exchange (IIX), one of the first stock exchanges in the world specifically for social entrepreneurs. In “The Defiant Optimist,” she explores how financial markets and social impact connect as she travels from Bangladesh to the US and Singapore.
Putting Profits and Goals Together
Shahnaz’s goal of transforming financial markets to serve social good has succeeded. Over $300 million has been invested through IIX, with about $100 million going to India. Surprisingly, not a single incidence of default has occurred. Due to Shahnaz’s emphasis on quantifying impact, investment risk has decreased, producing benefits for both the social and financial sectors. The potential for transformative investments in India is demonstrated by this accomplishment, which emphasizes the importance of balancing profits and purposes.
Learnings from Wall Street and Work Ethic
During her time on Wall Street, Shahnaz gained important knowledge about the workings of finance as well as the effectiveness of financial product structure. She understood that purposeful product design that rewards investors made inclusion in finance possible. Her efforts are still motivated by the strong work ethic she developed over those years. Shahnaz’s commitment to working 14–16 hours a day demonstrates her belief that perseverance is the cornerstone of lasting transformation.
A Social Stock Exchange is being built
The world’s first publicly traded social stock exchange, developed in partnership with the Mauritius government, served as a reminder of the value of a strong ecosystem. Shahnaz underlines the need for an encouraging environment for exchanges to succeed. This ecosystem included educating stakeholders about the potential and potential impact of social stock exchanges. Over 9,000 people have received education on this idea through the IIX Institute, broadening its reach in numerous nations.
Impact in the Context of India
Shahnaz’s dream and India’s desire to create a social stock exchange are compatible. The affiliation of IIX with Indian firms demonstrates the possibility of raising money from both domestic and international investors. Impact investments in India have the ability to revolutionize entire industries, as seen by businesses like a mobile eye clinic in Assam and cutting-edge waste management techniques. The development of Kinara from a modest lending company to a big financial company illustrates the efficacy of Shahnaz’s strategy.
The Future for India
Shahnaz recognizes the vibrant impact investing sector in India, but she also advises prudence while implementing a social stock exchange. To avoid setbacks, government intentions must be carried out in a successful manner. Shahnaz worries that if such an exchange is established incorrectly, India’s advancement in this area could be jeopardized. Her observations highlight the requirement for carefully thought-out projects that preserve the impact investment philosophy.
The transition from Wall Street to social impact investment made by Durreen Shahnaz is proof of the transformative potential of optimism and defiance working together. Through IIX, her life’s work has demonstrated the possibility of correlating earnings with purpose and calculating social impact. Shahnaz’s experiences and lessons offer a road map for success as India sets out on its own journey toward a social stock exchange. India can further solidify its position as a growing market for impact investing by adopting a comprehensive strategy and taking notes from her observations.