Everyone knows that first-time buyers are struggling to get onto the property ladder in the UK's housing hotspots. But what about those forbidden by Islamic law from taking out British-style mortgages, with their interest payment structure? The question led Sufyan Ismail, 27, to set up 1st Ethical in November 2001, to be joined by 28-year-old Bashir Timol four months later.
'We wanted to create a viable way for Muslims in Britain to gain access to finance,' explains Timol. He and Ismail realised that members of the large Muslim communities in the UK might want to invest money in a way that complies with Islamic principles, and so 1st Ethical advises on investments that avoid alcohol, gambling, tobacco, pornography and the giving or receiving of interest.
The company is already generating more new business in its native Bolton than rival advisers who have been in the area for 20 years or more. Turnover was pounds 500,000 last year and could top pounds 1.5 million in '03. Ismail and Timol are recruiting advisers across the country. They are planning an ethical investment conference for this month, which will be attended by delegates from the UK's high street banks. HSBC has already taken its lead from 1st Ethical and has introduced Islamic home finance for the first time.
'I enjoy doing something that will change the lives of Muslims in Britain,' says Timol. 'It's about far more than just a job.'