Creating the First Asian Socially Responsible Stock Exchange

By Karen Brown

Durreen Shahnaz

When Durreen Shahnaz ’89 was growing up in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the men in her Muslim family would go to pray at the mosque every Friday. The women often stayed behind to feed the beggars who came to the gate of their home. “We didn’t have much, but it was always just giving something,” recalls Shahnaz. “And if we couldn’t, we were taught to say, ‘Please forgive me, I can’t help you right now.’”

Today, Shahnaz still carries that responsibility on her shoulders, but on a much larger scale. Instead of handing out individual coins or servings of food, she is overseeing a venture that will enable capital investments worth millions of dollars in social enterprises for companies whose core mission is to contribute to sustainable development.

Shahnaz, a former investment banker and publishing executive and mother of two, is the founder and chair of Singapore-based Impact Investment Exchange (IIX), the first socially responsible stock exchange in Asia. Among the companies listed on IIX are those that give microloans to female entrepreneurs in rural areas and provide low-income housing or sustainable food security solutions.

The seeds of the stock exchange—due to launch next year—were planted while Shahnaz was in New York City running her company, oneNest, which connected women entrepreneurs in poor countries to the Western marketplace. Here she talks about her latest venture.

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