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How to buy shares in Malaysia (2021 update)

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How to buy shares (2021)

  1. Choose a stockbroker: Find a stockbroker that matches your criteria
  2. Sign up for an account: You’ll need to be over the age of 18 to sign up
  3. Plan before you buy: Work out how much you can afford to invest and how long you’ll be holding the shares for
  4. Choose the shares you want to buy: Do you want to buy Malaysian shares, global shares, dividend-paying or penny stocks?
  5. Order your stocks: Search for the company name or ticker code and set a market or limit order to buy
  6. Pay for your shares: Ensure you have enough funds in your account ahead of the settlement date

To buy shares in Malaysia you need to be over the age of 18, open a Central Depository System (CDS) account and a stock brokerage account, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Luckily, with stock market activity surging in 2020, it’s never been cheaper or easier for Malaysians to start investing.

This guide will take you through the basics, including how to buy shares online, how much it costs and whether it’s a safe option for you. If you’re ready to start buying shares, you can select an online broker in the comparison table below.

How stock trading works

As the name suggests, shares or stocks represent a “share” of a company. When you buy a share, you own a small part of a company. The price of your stock rises if the company is doing well and falls if it underperforms.

Just as you’d trade goods over Amazon or eBay, stock trading takes place over a digital marketplace known as the stock market or stock exchange. In Malaysia, we have Bursa Malaysia, and in the United States, there’s the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the NASDAQ.

How do you make money from shares?

You make money from stocks the same as you would any other product – by selling for a higher price than what you initially paid. The difference between the buy and sell price will be your profit or loss.

The other way to earn money is through dividends. A dividend is a percentage of a company’s annual profit which some companies choose to pay to their shareholders. These are typically paid twice a year and you can either bank these or reinvest them to compound profits.

Step 1: Find a stockbroker

To buy and sell shares, you’ll need to sign up with a stockbroker. You have two main options here – you can buy shares online using a stock trading platform or use a full-service broker.

A full-service broker is a traditional brokerage firm or investment bank such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. The main benefit is they do all the trading for you based on your instructions and they may offer advice. The downside is they charge a premium fee for their service.

The cheaper option is to use an online broker and place the trades yourself. There are dozens of platforms available to Malaysians — from bank brokerages like Maybank and Hong Leong Bank, to independent brokerages like Rakuten Trade and Malacca Securities, and they charge anywhere from 0.1% to 0.6% of the value of total shares traded with a minimum of RM8 to RM28 per trade.

CDS account vs nominee account

Before you can begin trading in stocks and other listed securities, you’d need a Central Depository System (CDS) account to hold the investments after purchase.

Most brokerage firms in Malaysia offer investors the option to either store their investments in a CDS account or nominee account. While both account types ultimately serve the same purpose, each comes with its own pros and cons.

CDS account

Managed by Bursa Malaysia, the CDS account provides an integrated clearing, settlement and depository facilities for investors in the Malaysian securities market. The trades are registered under your name and credited into your CDS account.

Pros

  • Centralised location for your investments. You have the option to trade using different brokerages, but view all your stock holdings in a single account.
  • Shareholder rights. By holding shares in your own name, you’d get to enjoy the perks of being a shareholder of the company (e.g. attending annual general meetings and entitled to voting rights).

Cons

  • Higher trading fees. CDS accounts are usually subject to higher brokerage fees.
  • Additional fees. CDS charges an account opening fee (RM10), a clearing fee (0.03% per transaction, maximum RM1,000), stamp duty (RM1 per RM1,000 amount of transaction, maximum RM200) and GST (6% on fees).
  • Limited to local trades. The CDS account can only hold shares traded on Bursa Malaysia.

Nominee account

A nominee account is a depository that’s managed by the respective brokerage firm. All stocks and securities are transacted and held on your behalf under the brokerage’s name. This means that the stocks are legally owned by the brokerage house.

Pros

  • Lower trading fees. Enjoy lower brokerage and minimum commission fees.
  • Privacy. Private custodian accounts offers an added layer of privacy to large investors who prefer not to reveal their investment moves.
  • Ability to invest in overseas markets. If you’re buying overseas stocks, you will require a nominee (custodian) account.

Cons

  • Lack of shareholder perks. Since your investments are not registered in your name, you’ll not have access to shareholders benefits.
  • Additional fees. Depending on the brokerage, you may incur extra costs such as account maintenance fees, foreign shares custody charges and corporate action handling fees. Also, you’d typically have to pay transfer fees if you wish to transfer investments into your CDS account.

Compare online brokers

Take a look at Malaysian online trading platforms in the table below. Depending on what you’re after, it may save money to use more than one platform, for example, one for Malaysian shares and the other for another market such as US or UK stocks.

Name Product Brokerage fee Interest on deposit? Intraday trade CDS fee
Zacks Trade
Zacks Trade
US$0.01
No
Yes
N/A
CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
The Zachs Trade platform offers stocks, ETFs, bonds, options, and more with access to more than 90 exchanges worldwide
Alliance Bank Trading Account
Alliance Bank Trading Account
0.15% - 0.29%
Yes
Yes
N/A
CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Trade on-the-go and diversify your portfolio with a myriad of investment products, ranging from bonds to unit trusts.
CIMB Trading Account
CIMB Trading Account
0.22% - 0.45%
Yes
Yes
RM0
CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Access multiple stock exchanges,  exclusive research materials, real-time portfolio management, and other trading conveniences to grow your investments.
Hong Leong Trading Account
Hong Leong Trading Account
RM8 - 0.10%
Yes
Yes
RM10
CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Enjoy the flexibility of bursa trading and access global markets with a single platform.
Rakuten Trade Trading Account
Rakuten Trade Trading Account
RM7 - RM100
Yes
Yes
Free
CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Benefit from low fees and earn reward points when you trade on this all-in-one digital brokerage.
RHB Trading Account
RHB Trading Account
0.21% - 0.42%
Yes
Yes
RM10
CFD Service. Your capital is at risk.
Trade in futures, shares, and warrants across major foreign markets with Malaysia's largest investment bank.
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Compare up to 4 providers

How to buy shares without a broker

Just to clear up any confusion, stock trading platforms are technically brokers – only without the personal interaction. If you’re looking to buy shares online, you can use the table above to compare apps.

However, there are also a few ways you can buy shares without a broker at all:

  • Managed funds. You access shares without a broker by investing in a managed fund. These funds typically hold multiple company stocks which are selected by a fund manager.
  • IPOs. Some crowd-funding platforms allow you to buy shares when a company first lists on a stock exchange, called an Initial Public Offering (IPO).
  • Your company. Some firms offer their staff company shares as part of their employment contract. These are called employee share schemes.
  • Off-market transfer. It’s possible to inherit shares or be given shares by someone else without a broker. This is called an off-market share transfer.
  • Share purchase plan (SPP). Sometimes companies raise extra capital by selling new shares via an off-market share purchase plan. Typically, you invest in an SPP directly through the company itself.

Step 2: Sign up for an account

To sign up to a broker in Malaysia, you’ll need to be at least 18 years old.

Registering for an account with a broker is usually free, however there are sometimes subscription costs or fees to transfer funds to your account. If you’re a new customer, you’ll need to provide the following information:

    • Personal details. Your name, address, date of birth and contact details
    • Proof of ID. Copies of NRIC for Malaysian or passport for non-Malaysian citizen
    • Bank account details. Latest bank statements or savings passbook
    • Supporting documents. Latest EPF statements, pay slips or EA form

    Depending on the broker you choose, it can take as little as a few minutes for your account to be approved or it can take up to a fortnight.

    You may be asked to deposit a specific minimum amount in order to open an account although this isn’t always the case. In most cases, you’ll have the option of funding your account through bank transfer, credit card or debit card.

    Step 3: Plan before you buy

    Stocks can be a great investment, but they’re also pretty risky. The more companies you hold and the longer you can afford to have money locked into stocks, the less risky your investment is. So it’s important to have a timeline and some actions in mind if things change.

    To build a plan, you’ll need to ask yourself the following key questions:

    1. How much can I afford to invest in stocks?
    2. How much can I afford to lose?
    3. How long can my money stay in the stock market?
    4. What will I do if prices start to fall?
    5. What about if prices rise?

    Once you can answer these questions, you can start mapping out the types of stocks you want to invest in. As a rule of thumb, the riskier the investment, the bigger your potential profit. Work out if you can afford to buy high-risk stocks (such as penny stocks) or if you should stick to safer long-term investments like blue chip stocks or index funds.

    Step 4: Pick your stocks

    With thousands of stocks to choose from, you’ll need to do some research around which ones match your investment goals. Bear in mind that it’s safer to have a diversified portfolio of stocks from different sectors and even countries to avoid major losses if one market falls.

    You’ll often have access to market research, analysis and even stock recommendations through your platform, so use this info to help make an informed decision. The other option is to follow the buy, hold or sell ratings of top brokers such as Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Morgans, UBS and Morningstar. Just keep in mind that even the experts get it wrong a lot of the time.

    Here are a few tips to help you decide:

    • Do you trust the company? The best company to invest in is one that you both understand and trust. Pick a company that you believe will continue growing and can be trusted to use its profits wisely.
    • Do you use its products? Are you a fan of Apple or do you use Facebook every day? These could be good options because you’ll also be among the first to notice if the company starts underdelivering to customers.
    • Debt + profit levels. Are debt levels under control and is profit growth meeting exceptions?
    • Expansion. Does the company have plans to expand into new global markets or sectors? A growing company usually means a rising share price.
    • Dividends. Does the company pay a dividend? If not, are you expecting the company’s share price to rise?
    • Stock price. Is the stock overvalued? An expensive stock is where the share price has risen beyond its perceived value, which could mean it’s going to fall in the near future.

    Ask an expert: How do you pick the right stocks?

    Roger Montgomery

    Roger Montgomery
    CIO, Montgomery Investment Management

    Only invest in quality companies. To identify a quality company search for a sustainably high rate of return on equity. High rates of returns on equity drive better long term returns for investors in those companies. A company that can sustain such returns usually has a sustainable competitive advantage.

    Look for sustainable competitive advantages from a great reputation, geographic location, benefits from scale, technology, Patents, innovation or IP, the Network Effect or barriers to entry. Always remember the most valuable competitive advantage is the ability to raise prices without a detrimental impact on unit sales value.

    Ask an expert: How do you pick the right stocks?

    Eleanor Creagh

    Eleanor Creagh
    Senior Market Strategist, Saxo Markets Australia

    Do your own research (financial health, earnings, quality, potential growth etc.), believe in the business yourself and don’t buy a stock because someone gave you a hot tip.

    Stick to your investment plan and risk manage – cut losers and allocate that capital elsewhere and let winners run.

    Lastly, focus on building a balanced, diversified portfolio that can weather the economic cycle, over picking the next winning stock. No one is right all of the time! The power of consistency and compounding returns (compound interest – the 8th wonder of the world according to Einstein) over a long period of time is far greater than a get rich quick stock pick.

    Step 5: Order the stocks

    Once you’ve decided which stocks you want to buy and how much you want to spend, the next step is to order them. If you have a full-service broker, you’ll need to call or email them to place your trade. If you’re using an online broker, this part’s up to you.

    Keep in mind that larger purchases may incur higher fees. For example, your platform may charge RM10 brokerage to buy a smaller number of shares but will change the fee structure to 0.1% of the trade value when larger amounts are purchased.

    1. Select your stocks by entering the company name or stock code
    2. Enter the number of stocks you’d like to buy or the amount you’d like to invest
    3. Choose your order type – you can usually opt to buy at the current price or use a limit order to pick a better price
    4. Preview and confirm purchase

    There are a few different ways that you can order your stocks, ranging from simple to quite complex instructions. The names tend to differ between brokers and not all offer the full range of options, but these are some of the more common types:

    Market order. This is the most basic order type, where you buy or sell shares as soon as possible at the most current available price.

    Limit and stop orders. This allows you to buy or sell stocks depending on a specific price. For example, if a company’s share price is RM68 but you want to buy at RM65, you can set a limit order to execute once its price falls to RM65 or lower. You can also set a “stop loss” to minimise losses by selling if a stock price falls below your buying price.

    Trailing order. This is a type of limit order where the limit is based on a percentage change or a price difference from the market price. For example, a company’s share has a price of RM50 and you’d like to buy it for around RM40, but only if it’s price dips temporarily rather than indefinitely. You could set a trailing price trigger of RM40 with a stop value of 5%. This means your order would be triggered once the price of the share falls to RM40 and then placed only once it rises by 5% to RM42.

    Once you’ve entered all the specifics of your transaction, you’ll then get a chance to review the details before placing your buy order. If you place a conditional order (a non-market order), you’ll typically receive a notification by email or text message once the order has been carried out.

    What are bid, offer and last prices?

    Some brokers display the “bid”, “offer” (or ask) and “last” price of stocks. Think of these as similar to auction prices, where buyers and sellers are offering their best prices.

    A bid price is the highest price any trader is offering to buy a company’s stock at that moment and the ask or offer price is the lowest price any seller is willing to accept. The last price is the most current price – and also the last price bidders agreed upon.

    Although the last price is the stock’s most recent price, it’s not necessarily what you can expect to pay if you make a market order. Instead, you’ll be paying the latest bid price and you’ll get the ask price when you sell.

    Step 6: Pay for your shares

    The funds needed to pay for your shares will automatically be charged from the linked cash account that you selected in step 2. In most cases, you can fund your account using a bank transfer, credit card or debit card.

    If you’re using an online broker, you’ll need to have sufficient funds to cover the cost of any trade transactions you make, including fees that apply. The trade settlement period on Bursa Malaysia is two business days (commonly referred to as T+2), which means your account will be charged two days after you’ve bought the shares.

    If you don’t have enough funds in your account by the time you’re charged, your shares will be forced-sold and you will bear all costs and losses resulting from this action.

    Next steps – Monitor the performance of your shares

    Congratulations, you’ve bought some shares! If you’ve bought Malaysian shares, you should receive an email or letter confirming your status as a shareholder.

    Keeping your investment plan in mind, the next step will be to monitor the performance of your stocks. How often you do this will depend on your plan. For example, if you have a long-term investment strategy, you may only need to check in every few months. If you have a short or medium-term strategy, it may be a good idea to check each night or each week.

    Do I need to pay taxes on capital gains or dividends?

    No. At the time of writing, Malaysia does not impose capital gains tax (CGT) on profits you make from shares, i.e. when you buy low and sell high.

    As for dividends, Malaysia is under the single-tier tax system, in which the profit tax submitted by a company is not charged to the shareholders. As such, dividend income and gains derived from the sales of shares will not be taxable.

    How much does it cost to buy stocks?

    Share prices range from less than one sen to more than a hundred ringgit per stock; however, there are some rules around how much you need to invest.

    Minimum investment

    In Malaysia, the minimum investment for every Bursa Malaysia-listed company you invest in is 1 lot which is equivalent to 100 shares. So if AirAsia Group Berhad (AIRASIA) has a share price of RM1.040, you’d need to buy at least 1 lot of AIRASIA stock with the minimum investment of RM104.

    These rules change depending on which country a stock is from. For example, you can invest as little as a few cents into US stocks, even if it’s your first time buying. Some brokers also allow fractional investing where you can buy in fractions rather than whole stocks. So say Facebook is priced at US$200 a share, instead of investing US$200, you could buy one-tenth of a share for US$20.

    Fees

    These are the types of fees you may need to pay when you invest in stocks:

    • CDS account opening fee. A one-time fee of RM10 is charged when you open a CDS account to hold the assets you buy on Bursa Malaysia.
    • Broker fee. This is the fee charged by your broker or stock trading platform every time you buy or sell stocks. Brokerage or commission fees are around RM8-RM28 on most stock trading platforms.
    • Clearing fee. A clearing fee of 0.03% of the transaction value is charged to both buyer and seller with a maximum of RM1,000 per contract.
    • Stamp duty. The stamp duty is RM1 for every RM1,000 (or fractional part) of the transaction value with a maximum of RM200 per transaction.
    • Other fees. Depending on the brokerage and market you’re trading in, there may be other fees to look out for, such as currency conversion fee (for foreign stocks), account fees, custody fees (for US stocks) and inactivity fees. These are important considerations since any fees you pay your broker will reduce your earnings and impact how much you invest per trade.

    Will your profits cover the fees?

    Say you invest RM1,000 in Company A’s stock with a broker fee of RM25 a trade. Assuming that you bought no other stocks, you would need to pay a total of RM26.30 in fees (RM25 broker fee + RM0.3 clearing fee + RM1 stamp duty).

    To cover the fees you paid, you’ll need Company A’s stock price to rise by at least 2.63%. But if you’d invested RM5,000, you’d only need its price to rise by 0.526%.

    Risks of stock trading

    Before you start buying and selling stocks, be aware of the risks:

    • You can lose money. A company’s stock can plummet to zero in the worst case scenario. If you’ve invested in such a company, you could lose your entire investment.
    • Bankruptcy. Shareholders are usually the last to be paid when a company goes broke. When this happens, there’s a good chance that you won’t get your money back.
    • Emotional toll. Daily share market fluctuations can cause plenty of stress for investors. If you can’t handle the ups and downs, you may be better off looking for a safer and steadier investment option.
    • Unexpected problems. Even if you do a lot of research into a company, it’s simply not possible to predict the future. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, bad company news and even changes in government policy can all occur unexpectedly and adversely affect the price of shares.
    • Lack of expertise. While investing in the share market sounds quite easy in theory, it can get quite complicated if you don’t know what you’re doing. First-time investors should be wary of getting ahead of themselves.
    • Getting in over your head. A final word of warning if you’re thinking of investing in shares: don’t bite off more than you can chew. Make sure to use your common sense and take a cautious approach – good advice no matter whether you’re planning on investing in shares, property or anything else.

    Frequently asked questions about buying shares in Malaysia

    Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of futures, stocks, ETFs, CFDs, options or any specific provider, service or offering. It should not be relied upon as investment advice or construed as providing recommendations of any kind. Futures, stocks, ETFs and options trading involves substantial risk of loss and therefore are not appropriate for all investors. Trading CFDs and forex on leverage comes with a higher risk of losing money rapidly. Past performance is not an indication of future results. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before making any trades.

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