Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia with a population of 32.4 million and a gross domestic product of US$354.3 billion for 2018. The country’s economy has undergone a dramatic transformation over the last five decades, from one that relied primarily on exports like tin and rubber to one that is among the fastest-growing in this region.
An attractive investment destination, Malaysia appeals to foreign investors with its developed infrastructure, political stability, and undervalued currency, the Malaysian ringgit (MYR). The country boasts a thriving financial sector as its government has adopted policies that aim at promoting foreign investments and market competition.
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The capital Kuala Lumpur is home to the Kuala Lumpur Commodity Exchange (KLCE) and Bursa Malaysia, the local stock exchange whose main index is the Kuala Lumpur Composite Index (KLCI). The KLCI has a market cap of US$397 billion and tracks the performance of thirty large companies, including Axiata Group Berhad, AMMB Holdings Berhad, and Digi.com Berhad.
Malaysia has established a strong trading partnership with other Asian countries like South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, and China, although it also has a prominent partner in the face of the United States. All these factors have shaped Malaysia into an investor-friendly country.
Until recently it was illegal for Malaysians to trade on the Forex markets. However, due to the immense interest on behalf of residents, the country’s authorities introduced a new set of rules to regulate these activities on a local level. Malaysian retail traders can use the services of brokerage firms as long as they are locally licensed and compliant with the country’s laws.
Malaysia Forex Legislation
Trading currency pairs is a popular activity among Malaysia’s residents. Internationally licensed brokerages can service customers from the country but it is still recommended for them to receive the authorization of the local regulator, the Securities Commission of Malaysia (SCM).
Several pieces of legislation have shaped the financial sector in the country, starting with the Exchange Control Act of 1953. This legislation introduced a set of guidelines on how Malaysian residents can trade with commodities like precious metals, foreign currencies, and securities. It also outlines the restrictions applying to such trading activities. Additionally, it regulates the import and export of commodities.
The second important piece of legislation in the country is the 1993 Securities Commission Act, which led to the establishment of the Securities Commission of Malaysia (SCM). This legislation authorizes SCM to issue licenses and supervise companies that deal in securities.
Then there is the 1998 Money Changing Act that all foreign exchange brokers looking to operate on Malaysian soil must abide by. This legislation also outlines that the Forex trading sector is not regulated by the country’s central financial institution, Bank Negara Malaya (BNM).
To prevent confusion, we should specify that the BNM is tasked with the regulation of the local currency MYR. It also licenses exchange businesses but without regulating the trading activities themselves.
The Capital Markets and Services Act consolidated the Securities Industry Act of 1983. It took effect in September 2007. The main idea behind it was to introduce a unified licensing system for capital market intermediaries that deal in securities and derivatives.
The Malaysian Securities Commission introduced new regulatory guidelines in the summer of 2018, aimed particularly at trading with derivatives like the CFD. Under these rules, companies that offer CFDs to local traders are required to obtain a license for dealing with derivatives by the SCM.
This move was intended to bring in more international Forex and CFD brokers who would seek to obtain licenses from the local regulatory authority. Respectively, licensed CFD brokers must adhere to various financial requirements.
For example, such firms are expected to have at least RM10 million in paid-up capital, which corresponds approximately to US$2.5 million. The companies must also meet the minimum stipulated threshold for adjusted net capital. The latter should exceed the amount of RM500,000, or around US$124,000.
Firms that already are authorized to provide Forex trading in the country can offer CFDs with their existing licenses as long as they notify the regulator they intend to do so. There is no need for them to apply for a separate derivatives license. Meanwhile, brokerages that want to offer solely CFD trading must comply with slightly different requirements. For instance, they should always have at least 50% of their shareholders’ money as liquid capital.
In line with the regulatory frameworks worldwide, CFD brokers are expected to educate their customers so that they better understand the risks inherent to this financial instrument. All licensed firms should contribute to the regulator’s Capital Market Compensation Fund. The latter is intended as a means of recourse in case a broker bankrupts.
This way affected traders will get their funds back. Each company should contribute RM30,000 (US$7,500) to the compensation fund upon receiving its license, but there is also a yearly fee of RM5,000 (around US$1,250). The minimum margin requirements are 20% for non-index shares, 10% for index shares, and 5% for index CFDs.
Malaysia Financial Regulators
There are several entities that oversee the financial sector in the country, starting with Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM). This entity was founded in January 1959 and has its headquarters in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. Its chief responsibility is to control all aspects related to the local currency, the Malaysian ringgit (MYR).
The ringgit was initially pegged at a fixed exchange rate against the USD as a means to cope with its significant depreciation after the Asian financial crisis of 1997. The central bank decided to abandon the peg for a floating exchange rate system in the summer of 2005. The ringgit gradually appreciated in relation to the USD in the years to follow. The central bank is also actively engaged in foreign exchange trading activities within Malaysia.
The Securities Commission of Malaysia (SCM) is the primary overseer of Forex trading in the country. It was established in 1993 after the enforcement of the Securities Commission Act. The SCM accounts directly to the Malaysian Ministry of Finance and is mandated with the regulation of companies that deal with securities and futures contracts on Malaysian soil.
Then there is the Shariah Advisory Council of the BNM, which was founded in May 1997. Its mandate is to ensure compliance with the Shariah banking principles. This is necessary since the official religion in the country is Islam.
Over 61% of the Malaysian population is Muslim. Respectively, foreign exchange brokers operating in the country must be Shariah-compliant and offer Islamic accounts to their local customers. These accounts are swap-free meaning that they are exempt from overnight interest rates in line with the Shariah principles.
Malaysia Forex Payment Methods
Nearly all brokers that operate on the Malay market offer their customers the option to sign up for demo accounts, topped up with virtual credits they can use to practice and test strategies. In many cases, traders can refill their demo balance as many times as they wish.
For real trading, however, you need to open a live account and deposit funds to its balance. There are several ways to do this but most Malaysian traders prefer to use their cards, with Visa, Maestro, and Mastercard being the most broadly available options.
Some Malay-friendly brokers also accept UnionPay credit/debit cards. Malay traders can apply for one at a branch of Public Bank Berhad or AmBank, both of which are authorized to issue UnionPay cards. The exact waiting time depositors must endure depends on the particular banks.
When using a card, you must open the deposit page of the broker and select this method from the list of supported options. You then complete the operation by entering your card’s number, its expiry date, your name, and the CVC number, i.e. the last three digits printed on the signature strip at the back of the card.
Of course, you should also specify what amount you wish to transfer to your balance before you complete the payment. Card deposits are great in that they are typically conducted instantly although the operation may require one or two working days in some instances. Make sure the sum you transfer meets the minimum and maximum deposit requirements of your Malay brokerage.
The bank transfer is another method preferred by traders from this market, accounting for nearly half of all online payments in the country. There are two ways to complete a bank transfer – you can either do it in person at a branch of your bank or from the comfort of your surroundings by logging into your online banking account. Online bank transfers are supported by most banks in Malaysia, including Bank Negara, AmBank, Public Bank Berhad, and Maybank2u.
E-wallets are another broadly offered payment option for Malay traders who refer to them as “dompet digital”. Most Forex brokers work with Neteller, PayPal, and Skrill. Some also support Perfect Money whose platform is available in Malaysian.
When using this method, payers are redirected to the system of their chosen e-wallet which allows for instant and anonymous money transfers. All four e-wallets are usually supported for withdrawals as well. FasaPay is another suitable payment option for traders from Malaysia, albeit a less common one.
Popular Trading Software in Malaysia
After you have determined which brokerages service clients from Malaysia, you need to check what trading platforms they implement. The software a broker relies on is essential for the trading experience it provides to its customers. The simpler the interface, the better, especially if you are new to Forex trading. An overly complicated platform may lead to trading mistakes which would ultimately cost you.
Another thing you should check is compatibility since some platforms may not work on the operating system you are using. Your broker of choice should also give you the option to trade on the go, so make sure their software is mobile-friendly.
Most brokers on the Malaysian market seem to prefer the MetaTrader 4 platform, developed by MetaQuotes, because it is the easiest to work with. It has a very user-friendly layout along with various advanced analysis tools and a practical chart station with three types of charts – bars, candlesticks, and lines. Additionally, traders can install it on any desktop computer that uses the Linux, Microsoft Windows or Mac operating systems.
MT4 is the favorite of many Malay traders who explore the Forex markets. However, those who want access to a more versatile selection of financial instruments should go for a brokerage that implements the MetaTrader 5 platform since it also supports options, bonds, stocks, and futures. Either platform has its version of WebTrader, which is browser-based and does away with the necessity of downloading additional software.
Mobile Trading in Malaysia
In an era when smartphones have become an inseparable part of people’s day-to-day lives, Forex brokers are aiming to compete with each other by facilitating the optimal trading experience on the go. Malaysians are very keen on mobile technologies as well.
In 2015, there were over 14 million smartphone users in the country, which corresponded to around 48% of the population at the time. This number is expected to jump to over 20 million people in 2020. Having said that, the country’s 4G connection is far from impressive speed-wise at 14.83 Mbps on average.
Brokers servicing the Malay market normally offer native apps that are compatible with Android and iOS. The MetaQuotes platforms MetaTrader 4 and MetaTrader 5 have also been optimized for trading on the fly, giving traders instant access to the full functionalities of the desktop versions.
Smartphone and tablet users can download the applications either directly from the websites of the brokerages or the mobile content platforms Google Play and the App Store. Traders can keep themselves informed when they are away from their desktop computers since the apps feature real-time quotes for the Forex markets.
There are also different types of trade orders, detailed trading histories, and the option to open positions from charts. The mobile version of MT4, in particular, can also display four charts within a single window on iPads. Best of all, Malay is supported to the benefit of non-English-speaking users from the country.