Half of Malaysia's banking assets to be Sharia-compliant by 2030

The South-east Asian country is a global pioneer in Islamic finance

KUALA LUMPUR - DECEMBER 6:  The Petronas Twin Towers are seen in the skyline at the peak of the Christmas holiday season in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on December 6, 2019. Shopping malls in the city were packed with people who come to see the elaborate Christmas decorations and ornaments. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Malaysia can expect half of its banking assets to be Islamic by 2030 as the industry’s growth outpaces conventional banking, according to its lenders’ association.

Loans that comply with the religion’s ban on interest is set to increase by 10 per cent to 15 per cent annually over the next five years, outpacing the 5 per cent to 7 per cent growth seen for non-Islamic loans, said Adissadikin Ali, president of the Association of Islamic Banking and Financial Institutions Malaysia, or Aibim.

“The name of the game in Islamic finance is differentiation,” he said in an interview in Kuala Lumpur. Consumers are becoming more familiar with Sharia-compliant products, he added. Moreover, the industry’s focus on values-based financing, which calls for protecting people and the planet, will help spur demand amid growing interest in ethical investing, he said.

Malaysia, which pioneered Islamic finance in the 1980s, set a target for Islamic banking assets to reach 40 per cent of the total industry by 2020. That proportion has only reached 31 per cent as of 2018, equivalent to 916.7 billion ringgit ($224bn), according to the central bank.

Mr Adissadikin, who is also chief executive at RHB Islamic Bank, said he was confident of his 50 per cent forecast for 2030 even if Malaysia falls short of its 2020 goal. The signs can be seen in the nation’s largest banks, he said, with Malayan Banking’s Islamic loans accounting for 61 per cent of the total and RHB Bank’s ratio rising to 38 per cent, from 26 per cent in 2017.

“Islamic banks are already on par with the conventional in Malaysia,” he said. “What you see in conventional, you can see in Islamic.”