Base Rate vs BLR in Malaysia: How does BR work?


Early this year, the Base Lending Rate (BLR) structure was replaced with a new Base Rate (BR) system. Under BR, which will now serve as the main reference rate for new retail floating rate loans, banks in Malaysia can determine their interest rate based on a formula set by the central bank.

Under the previous BLR, the rate was set by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) based on how much it costs to lend money to other financial institutions. Meanwhile, the cost to borrow money was determined by the Overnight Policy Rate (OPR) set by central bank.

With the new BR, which came into effect on January 2, 2015,interest rates are determined by the banks’ benchmark cost of funds and Statutory Reserve Requirement (SRR). Other components of loan pricing such as borrower credit risk, liquidity risk premium, operating costs and profit margin will be reflected in a spread in the new BR framework.

Why the change?

Instead of a fixed rate under BLR, BR are determined by banks without intervention by the central bank, and should differ from bank to bank depending on their own efficiencies in lending. Banks with a strong niche in consumer financing such as Maybank and Public Bank will have the initial edge of being able to offer more attractive and competitive BR and effective lending rates (ELR) for their customers.

The new framework encourages greater transparency from banks and will enable customers to make better financial decisions. Previously, calculations of BLR lacked transparency and some banks were lending below the BLR to attract customers and boost loan growth. Under the new system, customers cannot borrow below the base rate.

How does it affect you?

The change towards the new framework should have minimum impact on borrowers. Take the rates offered by Maybank for example. Based on the previous BLR rate of 6.85%, the “BLR -2.40%” offer means that the customer pays 4.45% on the mortgage.

With the BR system, the bank will have to reveal its base rate and also disclose its margin, which will determine the ELR. Maybank has set its Base Rate (BR) at 3.20%. Here, interest is presented as “base rate +1.35%”, which means that the effective rate that the customer will have to pay on the mortgage is 4.55%.

Ultimately, it’s the ELR that will determine how much you will have to pay for your mortgage. Here is a comparison of how much you will be paying for your home loan under BLR and under BR.

With the new framework, a home loan borrower of Maybank may have to pay an additional RM34 a month, which amounts to RM12,240 more by the end of the loan tenure.

Though certain banks may be setting a higher BR compared to others, they can sometimes offer lower ELR to customers in order to remain competitive. For example, Public Bank has a BR of 3.65% while Maybank’s is 3.20%. However, Public Bank offers a lower ELR at 4.45%, while Maybank’s ELR is 4.55%. This essentially means that Public Bank is willing to take a smaller profit margin in order to be more competitive.

Loans that are already approved and extended prior to January 2, 2015 will still follow the old BLR until the end of the loan tenure.