iShares, Barclays Global Investors' exchange-traded fund (ETF) brand, has expanded its Asia management team in line with its efforts to boost its overall business in Asia.

iShares has named David Gardner as managing director and head of sales for iShares Asia-Pacific, Joseph Cavatoni as managing director for iShares Asia Capital Markets,  Eleanor Seet as senior director of iShares private wealth distribution, and Anthony Chan as iShares senior investment strategist. Seet is based in Singapore, while the rest are based in Hong Kong.

Nick Good, CEO of iShares Asia-Pacific, says the expansion of the Asia team is in line with the growing ETF market in the region.

Gardner leads all sales teams for iShares in the Asia-Pacific region and will relocate to Hong Kong following nine years with iShares and BGI in the US.

ETFs are traded on an exchange just like stocks. An ETF holds assets such as stocks or bonds and trades at around the same price as the net asset value of its underlying assets over the course of the trading day. Most ETFs track an index, while others are custom-made to track specific assets. Those who like ETFs are usually attracted by the low costs and stock-like features.

Cavatoni is responsible for the management of all iShares capital markets relationships across the Asia-Pacific region. His primary focus is counterparty management including market-making activities, broker-dealer education, and thought leadership with respect to ETF trading analytics. Prior to joining iShares, he worked at UBS as head of equity finance.

Seet provides iShares client service support for private wealth intermediaries in the Asia ex-Japan region. Prior to joining iShares, she spent 12 years with Alliance Bernstein in Singapore.

Chan provides consulting support to clients seeking to implement asset allocation strategies and trade ideas using ETFs. Prior to joining iShares, he was a principal consultant with Watson Wyatt Investment Consulting in Hong Kong.

Barclays Global Investors is one of the world's largest asset managers and a leading global provider of investment management products and services. As of December 31, 2008, BGI had more than 3,000 institutional clients and approximately $1.5 trillion of assets under management, while iShares managed around $325 million in ETF assets.

iShares had enhanced its presence in the Asia-Pacific even before the latest appointments. The division now has more than 50 staff working at four offices in the region. iShares has a total of 21 listed ETFs in Asia, with 16 cross-listed in Australia, three primarily listed in Hong Kong, one primarily listed in Singapore, and one in Japan.

The ETF market in Asia is expected to get a boost this year in both the diversity of products and the depth of demand, particularly from institutional investors, thanks in large part to the global financial crisis.

Whatever the state of stock markets worldwide, institutional investors still need to keep an equities exposure. Enter ETFs, which are increasingly becoming a way for institutional investors to access stock markets in a relatively cheap and efficient way without needing to have any strong convictions about individual stocks. Beyond that, ETFs have become a toolbox that investors can use either in building the foundation of their portfolios or as a means to create more complex investment solutions.