How Does Malaysia’s Islamic Finance Space Compare to Indonesia?

How Does Malaysia’s Islamic Finance Space Compare to Indonesia?

by June 15, 2023

The global financial landscape has witnessed a paradigm shift over the past few decades, with Islamic finance emerging as a key player in the industry. 

The Islamic banking system parallels conventional banking, functioning as an intermediary institution that aggregates surplus public funds for redistribution to those needing funding. Its distinctiveness emerges from how transactions are treated and how banks generate income. 

Conventional banks profit via interest income, while Islamic banks garner earnings from fee-based income, markup, and profit-sharing mechanisms. Islamic banks, operating without any riba (interest), adhere strictly to Islamic Law.

Malaysia and Indonesia, two countries in Southeast Asia with substantial Muslim populations, have made significant strides in this realm.

As the world’s third-largest Islamic banking market, Malaysia witnessed Islamic financing constituting around 41 percent of local banking-system loans at the end of 2022. 

The market share of Indonesia’s Islamic bank financing, meanwhile, reached 7.6 percent in the last 9 months of 2022. These two Islamic financing landscapes, albeit similar in their adherence to Shariah principles, present contrasting characteristics and development strategies.

Islamic Financing

Malaysia: A mature market for Islamic Financing

With its rich history in Islamic finance, Malaysia stands as one of the most well-established markets on a global scale. As early as the 1980s, the foundation for the Islamic banking system was laid, experiencing rapid growth supported by a robust regulatory framework overseen by Bank Negara Malaysia, the country’s central bank. 

A defining feature of Malaysia’s financial landscape is its unique dual-banking system, which permits Islamic banks to coexist with their conventional counterparts.

To establish a clear set of guidelines for Islamic banks and other institutions operating within the Islamic financial sector, Malaysia enacted the Malaysian Islamic Banking Act of 1983 and the Islamic Financial Services Act of 2013. These legislative measures provide a comprehensive regulatory framework.

Furthermore, Malaysia has emerged as a pioneer in introducing innovative instruments and solutions in Islamic finance. The country’s approach to Islamic banking demonstrates its dedication to building a modern and progressive financial system that seamlessly integrates Islamic principles into everyday banking practices. 

A prime example of this commitment is the implementation of Value-based Intermediation (VBI), which places equal emphasis on social and environmental impacts alongside financial returns.

Regarding product diversity, Malaysia has excelled in offering various financial products that cater to multiple needs. These encompass essential banking services, investment products, and Takaful, the Islamic alternative to conventional insurance. Malaysian Islamic banks have successfully crafted attractive, competitive, and compliant products catering to Muslim and non-Muslim customers.

In 2022, Islamic banks accounted for 24 percent of total banking assets in Malaysia, surpassing Indonesia’s market share of 9 percent. A report forecasted that Malaysian Islamic banks’ share of Islamic financing in Southeast Asia will increase to 45 percent by 2026

Malaysia continues to dominate the global Sukuk market, with nearly 30 percent of all sukuk issuances globally and almost 40 percent of the world’s outstanding sukuk in June 2022.

Furthermore, Malaysia’s regulatory environment particularly supports Islamic finance, providing an encouraging landscape for its growth and development.

To actively promote Islamic finance, the Malaysian government has taken several measures. These include establishing the Islamic Banking and Takaful Institute (IBATI) to cultivate a pool of skilled Islamic finance professionals and creating the International Islamic Financial Centre (IFC) to attract foreign investments.

Islamic Finance in Indonesia: A rapidly evolving market

Contrasting Islamic Financing Landscapes: Malaysia vs. Indonesia

The landscape of Islamic financing in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, offers an interesting contrast to Malaysia’s. The sector’s development started in the 1990s and has a shorter history. 

However, it has shown dynamic growth, promising vast potential for future expansion. Malaysia has established a robust and integrated legal and regulatory framework that covers various aspects of Islamic banking, including banking, capital markets, takaful, taxation, and dispute resolution.

On the other hand, Indonesia’s regulatory framework for Islamic finance may require further development to address its unique socio-political-economic conditions and align with Shariah principles.

One of Indonesia’s significant contributions to Islamic finance is its innovative approach to Green Sukuk. These are bonds used to fund environmentally-friendly projects, a financial instrument that has gained popularity due to increasing environmental consciousness worldwide. The issuance of these Sukuk bonds shows Indonesia’s commitment to sustainable and responsible finance.

The Indonesian government issued its ST007 retail green savings Sukuk on the November 25, 2020, receiving an order of US$347.17 million. The offering is the second green issuance under the Sukuk Tabungan (ST) national savings Sukuk series. The facility attracted a total of 16,992 investors.

Regarding its financial products, Indonesian Islamic banks mainly offer savings and current accounts. There is an opportunity for Indonesian banks to follow Malaysia’s lead by diversifying their product offerings to capture a larger market share and provide customers with a more comprehensive suite of services.

Indonesia’s Islamic finance market is also unique because of its emphasis on social impact. The country has preferred investment in sectors with a positive societal or environmental effect, reflecting the Islamic finance principle of promoting public benefit.

Contrasting characteristics of Islamic Banking in both countries

How Does Malaysia's Islamic Finance Space Compare to Indonesia?

Both countries exhibit notable strengths in Islamic finance, particularly in the issuance of Sukuk bonds, which have propelled them to be among the top three global issuers. Moreover, both countries have implemented regulatory initiatives to foster the growth of Islamic finance.

Nevertheless, their approaches to Islamic finance diverge significantly. Indonesia’s development paradigm emphasizes a market-driven approach, prioritizing fair treatment, gradual and sustainable growth, and adherence to Sharia principles. On the other hand, Malaysia takes a comprehensive and pragmatic government-driven approach. 

Notably, the two countries have differences in compliance with the Islamic Financial Services Act (IFA). While Indonesian banks tend to align with the IFA and maintain stronger ties with the Middle East, Malaysia does not comply with the IFA.

In terms of the asset share of Islamic banks, Indonesia started its Islamic banking journey in 1992 and currently holds a 1.34 percent share. In contrast, Malaysia, with a more extended history since 1983, boasts a significantly higher share of around 9 percent. 

Another metric to consider is the Non-Performing Financing (NPF) ratio, which stands at less than 5 percent in Indonesia but reaches 10 percent in Malaysia.

The Ideal landscape for Shariah-compliant investors

What does this comparative landscape mean for Shariah-compliant investors? The answer largely depends on their investment objectives, risk appetite, and preferred investment horizon.

With its established and diverse Islamic finance market, Malaysia offers stability and a more comprehensive array of products and services. The Malaysian government’s proactive role and the incentives it provides foster an environment conducive to innovation and growth in Islamic finance. 

This stability and support make Malaysia an attractive destination for investors seeking a solid and established market.

On the other hand, Indonesia represents an untapped potential market, given its vast Muslim population and increasing demand for social and environmental impact Islamic finance products. 

While Indonesia provides a more innovative and emerging Islamic finance market with higher growth potential and social impact, this dynamic landscape might attract investors interested in achieving ethical and sustainable returns.

Shared challenges and the future of Islamic Financing

Despite their differing trajectories, both Malaysia and Indonesia face similar challenges. The need for standardization and harmonization of Shariah practices, improving financial literacy and education, leveraging digital technologies, and aligning with the global agenda of sustainable development are all shared challenges.

The future of Islamic finance in both countries looks promising. Their shared commitment to furthering the principles of Islamic finance, coupled with their unique strengths, positions them well to continue their growth trajectories. Both markets offer a wealth of opportunities for Shariah-compliant investors, each with its unique value proposition.

There isn’t a definitive answer to which country is ‘better’ for Islamic financing. The choice between Malaysia and Indonesia, or even a decision to invest in both, will largely depend on an investor’s individual goals, risk appetite, and investment horizon. 

Whether it’s the stability and variety of Malaysia’s mature market or the potential for dynamic growth and innovation in Indonesia’s emerging market, both landscapes offer unique advantages that align with the principles of Shariah. 

However, investors must conduct thorough research and seek expert advice to understand the unique intricacies of each market and navigate them effectively. The world of Islamic finance is vast and complex, and as with all investments, it requires careful consideration and strategic planning.