马来西亚身负1万亿马来西亚林吉特（约合1.67万亿人民币）国债，设立了希望基金（Tabung Harapan Malaysia）鼓励民众和企业向指定银行捐款。借助 GoGetFunding.com 等网站，民间也自发策划了各种众筹活动。
根据 Journal of Innovation Management 的定义，“‘金融科技’是利用技术改善金融活动的新型金融业。”
马来西亚早期孵化器和投资公司1337 Ventures 制作了一张覆盖不同细分市场的马来西亚金融科技生态图，从这张图来看，该国大部分金融科技公司都集中在支付和贷款领域。
调查结果显示，马来西亚金融科技发展十分不均，有的细分市场无人问津，有的则是一片红海，1337 Ventures 认为这“十分具有启发性”。公司近期还推出了专门针对金融科技领域的孵化前速成培训课程。课程持续四周，由当地银行高层担任讲师。
在电子钱包领域，KrASIA 近期曾报道游戏公司 Razer 与马来西亚巨头 Berjaya Corporation Berhad 联手推出的电子钱包 APP。目前，该服务已入驻6000多个线下零售点。尽管在马来西亚，电子钱包领域已是玩家众多的细分市场，甚至不乏中国玩家——支付宝和微信支付的身影，Razer 的进入还是掀起了波澜。与此同时，东南亚网约车平台 Grab 也于去年进入支付领域，在新加坡推出了Grab Pay，今年6月又将业务扩张到了马来西亚。
Razer Pay 于2018年7月面市
比价网站在马来西亚也很受欢迎，主要玩家包括新加坡的 GoBear 和马来西亚的 iMoney。两家平台都为用户提供保险和信用卡等金融产品的鉴别和比价服务。iMoney 成立于2012，2017年接受采访时曾表示，虽然其业务已覆盖整个东南亚，但公司超过一半的营收仍来自马来西亚。
“我们在马来西亚有两年的先发优势，所以一直在增长。但在菲律宾和印尼等市场，我们还多多少少处于完善自身的阶段，覆盖的领域也没那么多，”iMoney 的 CEO Lee Ching Wei 说。
1337 Ventures 还列出了那些至今仍是蓝海的细分领域，包括信用评级、房地产网站和资本市场交易。
马来西亚国家银行（Bank Negara Malaysia）——同时也是该国的中央银行——先是在2016年发布了金融科技监管沙盒框架，旨在为金融科技打造友好的发展环境，促进马来西亚金融产业增长。
“参加监管沙盒项目能帮助企业获取客户……毕竟谁会想要把钱交给没被监管机构批准或认可的企业呢？”MoneyMatch（马来西亚一家 fintech 初创公司）CEO Adrian Yap 在接受采访时说。MoneyMatch 于2017年年中获得马来西亚国家银行批准，是迄今为止四家被纳入监管沙盒框架的企业之一。
根据 Invest Smart 2016年的一份股权众筹报告（Invest Smart 是马来西亚证券委员会投资者权益保障倡议下的一个项目），2015年颁布的新法规内容包括：
截止2016年，已有六家股权众筹平台向马来西亚证券委员会登记，包括 pitchIN、Alix Global、Crowdo、Eureeca、Ata Plus 和 Propellar CrowdPlus。
It has been a tumultuous last few years for Malaysia, a Southeast Asian developing nation with a population of over 30 million people. Ridden with an international graft scandal, the country’s people recently elected 92-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad as its leader in an unexpected win, promising many key reforms.
The country, which owes RM 1 trillion (around $246 billion) in national debt, has also established the Tabung Harapan Malaysia fund, a way for people and companies to donate money through transferring money into a specified bank account. At the grassroots level, people have also started their own crowdfunding campaigns through sites like GoGetFunding.com and others.
This provides a glimpse of how financial technology (fintech) will work in the ‘new’ Malaysia, essentially Malaysia 2.0, as it looks towards ridding corruption and improving its economy. Politicians are also becoming increasingly tech-savvy, understanding that tech has a crucial role to play in governance and policy-making; for example, one particular candidate from the Malaysian Chinese Association said that, if elected, he would use blockchain to ensure transparency.
While that might be a tall order, it is important for the rest of Southeast Asia to see the potential that lies within the fintech space in Malaysia, especially given the new administration.
What’s fintech anyway?
According to the Journal of Innovation Management, ‘fintech’ is a new financial industry that applies technology to improve financial activities.”
Financial technology companies come from both the startup world and traditional financial services sector, as both are trying to replace or enhance the usage of financial services provided by existing financial institutions, and its growth can be partially attributed to the proliferation of smartphones.
This is not limited to startups as financial institutions are getting involved in the revolution; many banks have already started their own fintech innovation programmes hoping to mine the next winning idea that will change how people use their money.
Fintech in Malaysia
According to Malaysian early stage accelerator and investment firm 1337 Ventures, which published an opportunity map displaying the breakdown on verticals within fintech, most of the existing fintech firms in the country are operating out of the payments and lending verticals.
There is also the potential for growth within the Islamic Finance vertical, which is key given Malaysia’s demographics, with more than half the country identifying as Muslim.
The company noted that the results have been “eye-opening in the sense that it highlights the fact that [Malaysia] is lacking fintech startups in some categories while being heavily populated in other verticals”. It also just launched its latest pre-accelerator programme, a four-week fintech-oriented crash course with mentors from various local banks in the country.
Within the e-wallet space, we reported yesterday that gaming firm Razer has debuted its e-wallet app in partnership with Malaysian conglomerate Berjaya Corporation Berhad, allowing the app to be used at over 6,000 establishments. This is an overcrowded space with many players, but Razer’s participation has shaken things up, especially with Chinese e-wallet apps Alipay and WeChat Payalready in the Malaysian market. Southeast Asian vehicle-hailing platform Grab also made its first foray into payment last year with Grab Pay in Singapore, a move it replicated in Malaysia in June 2018.
Comparison sites are also popular among Malaysians, with companies like Singapore-based GoBear and Malaysian firm iMoney, both platforms that allow consumers to verify and compare various financial products from insurance to credit cards. Founded in 2012, iMoney said in an interview with The Edge in 2017 that while it operates across the region, its home country still brings in more than half of its revenue.
“In Malaysia, we had a two-year head start so it’s all about growing. In markets like the Philippines and Indonesia, there’s still a degree of building involved and we do not have as many verticals there as well,” said Lee Ching Wei, CEO, iMoney.
Verticals that can use a bit more competition include credit scoring companies, real estate sites, and capital market trades, according to 1337.
Regulations in Malaysia
Most regulations within the Malaysian fintech space have to do with financing and equity crowdfunding solutions.
Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), which is the central bank of Malaysia, first issued the Financial Technology Regulatory Sandbox Framework in 2016, aiming to create a conducive environment for fintech to thrive and add to the growth of the country’s financial industry.
Commonly, sandboxes help private companies work with governments to test its offerings “with greater flexibility or even exemptions from existing regulation”, described multinational firm Ernst & Young in a 2016 report on compliance and regulations within fintech.
Companies that are accepted into the framework might find it easier to work with customers, both enterprises and consumers. Of course, not any company can get accepted; requirements include but are not limited to:
- Having a product, service or solution that is genuinely innovative, with the potential to improve accessibility, efficiency, security and quality in the provision of financial services
- Being able to prove that an adequate and appropriate assessment has been done to demonstrate the usefulness and functionality of the product, service or solution and identify associated risks
- Having the necessary resources to support testing in the sandbox, including being able to mitigate and control potential risks and losses arising from the offering of the product, service or solution
- Having a realistic business plan to deploy the product, service or solution on a commercial scale in Malaysia after leaving the sandbox
“It helps with the customer adoption rate…which customer would want to hand over money to a company that’s not licensed or recognised by the regulator?” shared Adrian Yap, CEO, MoneyMatch in an interview with Digital News Asia. MoneyMatch was one of the four companies announced to have been approved by BNM in mid-2017.
Yap added, “A lot of doors have actually opened in the remittance and money exchange space as well. The bigger players in the market have also started wanting to work with us. So there are definitely benefits that have come from being in the sandbox.”
BNM also set up the Financial Technology Enabler Group, which is “responsible for formulating and enhancing regulatory policies to facilitate the adoption of technological innovations in the Malaysian financial services industry”, according to its website.
Malaysia was also the first country in Southeast Asia to roll out laws regarding equity crowdfunding (ECF) when it passed a bill in 2015 to regulate the vertical. Equity crowdfunding refers to when investors acquire a percentage of ownership in a private company receiving the investment.
According to a 2016 report on ECF by Invest Smart, a campaign under Securities Commission Malaysia’s Investor Empowerment initiative, some new rules under the 2015 bill include:
- The maximum investment amount investors can invest is RM 5,000 ($1,232) for each issuer
- Investors will have a 6-day cooling off period during which they can withdraw the full amount of their investment.
- The maximum total investment amount investors can make through ECF is RM 50,000 ($12,323) within a 12-month period.
As of 2016, six ECF platforms have registered themselves with the Securities Commission: pitchIN, Alix Global, Crowdo, Eureeca, Ata Plus, and Propellar CrowdPlus.
2018 and beyond
Clearly, fintech remains a space in Malaysia where there are still uncharted paths to trek.
Unlike its closest neighbour Singapore, which might have built up a stable infrastructure for growth and innovation, Malaysia might have it slightly rockier. However, Malaysia has the resources that can help it accelerate its progress, like the sheer population size alone that has obviously proven it to be a valuable market within Southeast Asia.
While there are strong incumbents gaining traction in a few crowded markets, with increasing capital being poured into the country be it from local firms or foreign corporations, and regulations that seem to favour the entrepreneurial spirit, the state of things do look promising.