Exchange-traded funds (ETF) provider iShares has launched a new iShares Asia ETF Series in Hong Kong that includes four new funds designed to provide access across the region. The ETFs will begin trading on the Hong Kong stock exchange today.

The four new ETFs are iShares MSCI Asia APEX 50 Index ETF, iShares MSCI Asia APEX Mid Cap Index ETF, iShares MSCI Asia APEX Small Cap Index ETF, and iShares MSCI Emerging Asia Index ETF.

The three APEX ETFs are designed to deliver instant, diversified exposure to markets across Asia by providing investors with opportunities to invest in baskets of large, mid- and small-cap Asian companies. The fourth ETF, the iShares MSCI Emerging Asia Index ETF, provides diversified exposure to large- and mid-cap companies in emerging Asian countries like South Korea, Taiwan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.

"The launch of the iShares Asia ETF Series showcases our commitment to offering products and services relevant to the Asian market," says Nick Good, CEO of iShares Asia-Pacific. "Investors in Asia are seeking products with region-wide exposure while, at the same time, they want to know exactly what they have invested in and that their investments can be traded easily."

ETFs with Asian underlying assets have been a big hit in their respective markets in the region because local investors tend to prefer investments they understand and can see trading in real time.

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. ETFs 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. The test for the demand for ETFs will come when markets turn, however, as investors may go back to their old ways of trying to get the best possible returns.

Jane Leung, senior director of product for iShares Asia ex-Japan, says iShares develops products that are versatile enough to meet varying investor needs -- both short-term and long-term. Looking ahead, iShares will continue to provide tools for investors in Asia that help them achieve their investment objectives while managing risk in a cost-effective manner, she says.

With the launch of these new ETFs, iShares is more than doubling its ETF offering in Hong Kong which currently includes: iShares FTSE/Xinhua A50 China Tracker, iShares MSCI China Tracker and iShares BSE Sensex India Tracker.

iShares is the world's largest provider of ETFs with nearly $325 billion in assets under management in ETFs. More than 360 iShares ETFs are currently available in markets around the world covering a comprehensive range of asset classes, market sectors and segments.