About Malaysia

Malaysia is among the top 25 most competitive economies in the world. It has a strong industrial base and acts as a springboard for companies expanding into ASEAN countries. Rising domestic income in Malaysia, the backbone to its continued economic growth, is an additional incentive for companies to launch their expansion into ASEAN from Malaysia.

Malaysia is one of the world's leading exporters of electrical appliances, parts and components, as well as palm oil and natural gas. Malaysia's diverse economy has helped stabilise its economic outlook.

Malaysia's infrastructure is one of the best in Southeast Asia, with well-connected roads, airports and seaports. Its IT infrastructure is also one of the best for an emerging economy, which in turn is well-supported with a skilled IT labour force.

The Malaysian government has put in place business-friendly policies to encourage foreign direct investment (FDI). Malaysia is also China's largest ASEAN trading partner, and is heavily funded by China for major infrastructure projects. Under China's Belt and Road Initiative, Malaysia is set to receive steady investments from Chinese investors.


Malaysia Market Profile Infographic_small

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Corporate Treasury in Malaysia

Malaysia is among the top 25 most competitive economies in the world. It has a strong industrial base and acts as a springboard for companies expanding into ASEAN countries. Here, we highlight some of the key benefits relevant to treasury and cash management.


Financial Market Development

  • The World Economic Forum ranks Malaysia 16th in the world for financial market development in The Global Competitiveness Report 2017/2018.
  • It ranks Malaysia 44th in the world for the soundness of its banks, while it rates the country 9th for venture capital availability, 21st for ease of access to loans and 30th for legal rights.
  • Malaysia has good business infrastructure, an educated multi-lingual workforce and a sound legal environment.
  • Malaysia has foreign exchange controls, but there are no restrictions for non-residents to transfer profits abroad in foreign currency from their investments in Malaysia.


Sophistication of Banking Systems

  • There are 27 commercial banks in Malaysia, of which 19 are foreign-owned, and 11 investment banks. There are also 16 Islamic banks. Islamic banking has a 35% market share with MYR628.22 billion of assets (Sept 2017).
  • Malaysia has an offshore financial centre in Labuan.
  • Malaysia's foreign exchange market has an average daily turnover of USD8 billion, accounting for 0.1% of global turnover (Bank for International Settlements triennial global survey 2016).
  • Malaysia has one of the most developed debt markets in the region, with both government and corporate bonds available. It has the largest sukuk market in the region. Non-residents are allowed to issue foreign-currency denominated sukuk and bonds. Outstanding local currency bonds totalled MYR1.286 trillion at the end of 2017.


Regulatory Bodies

  • The banking industry is regulated by the central bank Bank Negara Malaysia. Regulations are in line with international standards. Foreign exchange controls are governed by the Controller of Foreign Exchange, who is also the Governor of Bank Negara Malaysia.



  • The corporate income tax rate is 24%. Resident small and medium companies (subject to meeting certain conditions) are subject to tax on a progressive or slab rate i.e.18% on the first MYR500,000 whilst the balance at 24%.
  • Both resident and non-resident companies are taxed on their Malaysian-sourced income.
  • Profits from the branch of a foreign company are taxed at the same rate as a resident company’s profits. There is no branch profits remittance tax on the remittance of profits to the head office by the branch of foreign company.
  • Goods and Services Tax has been reduced to 0% since 1 June 2018 and will be replaced by a sales and services tax in September 2018.
  • Interest income accrued in Malaysia is subject to corporate income tax. There are exemptions for interest income received in Malaysia from outside of Malaysia.
  • Interest expenses that are used for business purposes are generally tax deductible. It has been proposed that earnings stripping rules be introduced with effect from 1 January 2019. However, the details of the rules have not been made known as yet.
  • Stamp duty is imposed on certain instruments, including loan agreements. Different instruments attract different rates. For example, loan agreement generally attracts a 0.5% stamp duty (reduced rate of 0.1% is available for loan agreements without security and repayable on demand or in single bullet repayment).
  • Withholding tax of 15% is charged on interest paid or payable to non-resident companies where no tax treaty is in place. Rates range from 0% to 15% where a tax treaty is in place and non-resident companies can provide a Certificate of Residence.
  • Malaysia has a wide variety of tax incentives for companies in the manufacturing, agricultural, hotel, tourism, Islamic banking and IT sectors, and some of the tax incentives include tax holidays up to 10 years (pioneer status) and investment tax allowances. There are also tax incentives for companies operating in Special Economic Regions.
  • Companies that are approved as principal hubs are subject to corporate income tax at tiered rates of 0%, 5% and 10% for up to ten years, subject to meeting conditions.
  • Malaysia has tax treaties with more than 70 countries and territories.
  • Malaysia is a signatory to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement, through which information is exchanged between tax administrations, to provide a single, global picture on some key indicators of economic activity within multinational enterprises.


Benefits for Shared Service Centres:

  • Malaysia is a regional financial services hub and an innovative international Islamic financial centre.
  • There are tax concessions for treasury management centres, including a corporate income tax exemption on 70%  of the statutory income derived from qualifying treasury services to its related companies for five years, no WHT on interest  on loans obtained from banks, non-bank institutions and approved network outside Malaysia provided that the funds are used for its qualifying activities or services and foreign-exchange administration flexibilities.
  • Malaysia is a popular location for Shared Services Centres due to its large, cost-effective English-speaking labour pool. Malaysia’s Muslim population means that some companies run both their Asian and Middle Eastern operations from the country.
  • Cushman & Wakefield ranked Malaysia as the third-top location in the world for Shared Service Centres in 2016. 
  • It is a member of the Asian Payment Network, a common payment settlement platform within the Asia Pacific region, while its national JomPAY system is used by 40 banks in Malaysia.
  • Notional pooling is permitted but not widely available. Domestic and cross-border cash concentration between resident and non-resident companies requires approval from the BNM’s Controller of Foreign Exchange.



Banking System

  • There are 27 commercial banks (of which 19 are foreign-owned banks), 11 domestic and five international Islamic banks, and 11 investment banks.
  • The banking sector is dominated by the eight domestic commercial banks: Affin Bank, Alliance Bank Malaysia, CIMB Bank, AmBank, Hong Leong Bank, Maybank, Public Bank and RHB. They offer a broad range of retail and investment services.
  • Maybank dominates Malaysia's banking sector in terms of total assets, services and branch network. It is also a major bank in Southeast Asia. Maybank Islamic is the leading Islamic bank in the country and is also prominent in the region.
  • Foreign banks operate in Malaysia's financial sector, however, they are subject to restrictions such as: a ban on offshore ringgit trading; and a prohibition on receiving cross-border deposits from residents.
  • In March 2016, Malaysia and Thailand introduced a local currency settlement framework to ease the process of settling import/export trade accounts between the two countries and to improve efficiency of MYR and THB-denominated financial operations, such as deposits and foreign exchange hedging.


Bank Accounts

  • Residents: May hold foreign currency accounts both domestically and overseas. They may only hold domestic currency accounts onshore, although it is freely convertible to foreign currency. MYR offshore remittances above a total of MYR 1 million per year for individuals and MYR 50 million per year for companies require Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) approval.
  • Non-residents: May hold foreign and domestic currency accounts, whereby domestic currency accounts are freely convertible to foreign currency.
  • Interest: Only available on savings accounts.


Legal and Regulatory

  • The BNM oversees and regulates the banking sector.
  • A company is resident if it is incorporated or centrally controlled or managed in Malaysia.
  • Overseas investments of over MYR50 million (or foreign currency equivalent) made by a resident company funded through domestic borrowing must seek prior BNM approval and must also be registered with the BNM.
  • The BNM administers foreign currency controls.
  • Malaysia is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
  • Foreign currency may be freely imported or exported by residents and non-residents.
  • USD10,000 of domestic currency may be freely imported or exported; above this amount, approval must be sought from the BNM.
  • There is anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing legislation in place.
  • Malaysia has set up a financial intelligence unit, the Unit Perisikan Kewangan (UPW), which is part of the BNM and a member of the Egmont Group.




Payment Systems



Interbank electronic payment system
  • PayNet formed after the merger of payment consortium Malaysian Electronic Payment System (MEPS) with BNM payment operator MyClear in 2017. BNM is PayNet’s single-largest shareholder, with 11 other Malaysian financial institutions on board.
  • Operator of shared payment networks.
  • Processes ATM, online, mobile and stored value card payments.
  • Transactions settled in real time.


(Real Time Transfer of Funds and Securities)

Malaysia's Real-time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system

  • Owned and operated by the BNM.
  • 68 participants
  • Processes high value and urgent MYR-denominated credit transfers and foreign currency payments.
  • Final settlement of participants' net balances from other clearing houses.
  • Transactions settled in real time and with immediate finality.
  • Linked to the USD CHATS system in Hong Kong, enabling the settlement of MYR and USD payments in real time.
  • As part of pilot scheme by Euroclear and a group of Asian banks, RENTAS processes multi-currency settlements using SWIFT message formats to facilitate the development of an Asian bond market.
  • RENTAS is subdivided into two subsystems:


(Interbank Funds Transfer System)


  • A subsystem of RENTAS.
  • Processes high value MYR-denominated and foreign currency interbank fund transfers submitted online.
  • For non-member applicants or beneficiaries, there is a minimum threshold of MYR 50,000 per transaction.


(Scripless Securities Trading System)


  • A subsystem of RENTAS.
  • Settles Malaysian government securities, treasury bills and unlisted public debt securities.
  • Processes government bonds, Bank Negara papers and Cagamas bonds (Cagamas is the National Mortgage Corporation).



(National Electronic Cheque Information Clearing System)

Paper-based and cheque clearing system

  • Owned by the BNM and operated by PayNet.
  • Approximately 46 participants.
  • Cheques are truncated into an electronic image before being cleared.
  • Processed same day if submitted before 16.00 local time.
  • Final settlement done across participants' accounts held at the BNM through RENTAS, and available next day.


(Interbank Giro)

Electronic funds transfer payment system

  • Operated by MyClear.
  • 42 participant banks
  • Processes low value (max. threshold of MYR 500,000) and bulk electronic interbank payments to third parties.
  • Final settlement done across participants' accounts held at the BNM through RENTAS.
  • Funds available same or next day.



Payment Instruments


Credit Transfers

  • There are only automated credit transfers.
  • High value and urgent transactions settled through RENTAS same day.
  • Low value (less than MYR500,000) and non-urgent transactions processed through IBG system, with final settlement done through RENTAS same or next day.
  • Used for payroll, supplier and third-party transactions.
  • The expansion of the ATM network has increased the use of credit transfer through the use of Instant Transfer (done via ATMs, online or mobile).


Direct Debits (auto debits)

  • A popular form of payment used for low value, regular payments such as utility bills.
  • Online bill and e-commerce payments can be made through the FPX payment system (requires an online bank account with one of the 29 participating banks) and are processed in real time.
  • JomPAY is Malaysia’s bill payment scheme using internet or mobile banking - operated by PayNet with 40 bank participants.


Card Payments

  • Card payments have grown significantly in popularity, with a marked growth in the use of debit cards.
  • All domestic payment cards have migrated from signature-based to PIN-enabled. Contactless transactions for low-value purchases are also growing in popularity. 
  • Debit card use is on the increase and the drop in the interchange fee from 1% to 0.15% was introduced to promote it further.
  • There were 41.19 million debit cards and 10.2 million credit cards in use in 2017, along with 437,605 EFTPOS terminals and over 15,000 ATM machines.
  • The main card brands are Visa and MasterCard, and Bankcard is the national credit card. All cards are EMV-compliant.
  • MyDebit is a domestic direct-debit payment scheme operated by PayNet, which facilitates point-of-sale purchases with ATM cards issued by Malaysian banks.
  • E-money (stored value) cards and apps such as Touch ‘n Go and vcash lead the cashless payment sector in terms of transaction volume.


Online Payments

  • The government has introduced initiatives to encourage the move to a cashless society by 2050, such as concessions to digital players and the cost of processing digital payments. Currently, 80% of payments are carried out in cash, with only 20% done digitally or through credit transfer.
  • Digital wallets are becoming more popular for retail and commercial payments, although currently they make up only 10% of total payments.  The BNM approved 31 electronic money licences in 2018, supporting the initiative to create a cashless society. Popular digital wallets are Alipay, WeChat Pay and Touch ‘n Go.
  • Local banks such as Maybank and CIMB Bank have launched their own mobile wallets, which also offer mobile banking facilities. Local taxi app Grab has launched Grab Pay with Maybank and will be rolled out throughout 2018. Mobile wallets, however, have had a slow uptake.


Digital Currencies

  • Cryptocurrency is not recognized as legal tender.
  • Virtual currency exchanges are subject to regulation and increased transparency under the Anti-Money Laundering/Counter Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) policy guidelines.
  • The BNM has implemented the National Regulatory Sandbox to allow fintech companies opportunities to innovate freely.  


Cash, Cheques and Money Orders

  • Cheques are a common form of cashless payment for retail and commercial payments.
  • The increasing use of electronic payments is seeing a decline in cheque usage.
  • The government has increased the cost of processing cheques in an effort to encourage electronic payments.
  • Cheques truncated into electronic product and cleared through eSPICK. Available to beneficiaries next day.
  • Pos Malaysia and other vendors such as Maybank and Western Union offer national and international remittance services.



Malaysia Market Profile Infographic

1 GST was reduced to 0% in June 2018. A new Sales and Service Tax (SST) is due to replace it later in 2018

2 (Progressive) max rate for incomes over MYR1 million

Recent developments


Malaysia Outperforms China for Government e-Payments

Malaysia has been ranked 19th in the world for the availability of government e-payment services in a study by the Economist and Visa. The placing is significantly ahead of China, which came 42nd, as the government there has been slower to develop e-payment services, despite the country’s booming take up of mobile payments in the consumer space. In the study, Malaysia was rated above the global average for citizen to government, government to citizen and business to government payments.

Read more about the development here


Chinese Tourists Drive Mobile Payment Availability

Three-quarters of supermarkets and convenience stores in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand now offer Chinese mobile payments in a bid to cater to tourists from the Mainland, while 71% of duty-free shops and luxury goods stores also offer the payment method. Alipay and WeChat Pay are the most common options available, according to a report by Nielsen, co-issued with Alipay. But there was little evidence that local shoppers were adopting these payment methods, which often require a Chinese mobile number and bank account.

Read more about the development here



This Market Profile is brought to you by DBS. Get in touch with us for further insights on doing treasury in Malaysia and take advantage of our innovative solutions to empower your business. Click here to find out more.



Sources: World Economic Forum; PwC; US Department of Commerce; Bank Negara Malaysia; Bank for International Settlements; Asian Development Bank; Paynet; Cushman & Wakefield

The information herein is published by DBS Bank Ltd. (“DBS Bank”) and is for information only. The information is assembled based on information available and accurate as at Apr 2019.

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Last updated on 13 Apr 2019