James Polisson, Russell Investments' new global head of exchange-traded funds (ETFs), has singled out the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia, as prime areas for ETF expansion.

He joined as managing director in mid-January, along with Andrew Arenberg, who will run global ETF distribution for the US firm. Both assume newly created positions, expanding the global leadership team.

Based in San Francisco, the duo moved from Barclays Global Investors' (BGI) global iShares business in the same city. Arenberg had helped drive BGI's expansion into Asia-Pacific and Latin America.

"I'm very pleased to welcome both of these experienced ETF innovators to Russell in order to marshal next-generation thinking on a broad range of ETF-related opportunities," says Andrew Doman, Russell's chief executive and president.

The firm already provides indexes within the ETF industry through licensing agreements with iShares and other major ETF sponsors. The hire of Polisson and Arenberg aims to complement these existing relationships as Russell develops other ETF opportunities, adds Doman.

The firm signed a deal last week to make its indexes available as the basis for ETFs listing on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. And in mid-2009, it partnered with Jadwa Investment to launch a sharia-compliant Russell-Jadwa Shariah Index series.

The ETF market is growing fast, with global assets now standing at around $1 trillion, but it faces regulatory concerns over certain newer product types, such as commodity and inverse/leveraged instruments. The Asia-Pacific market only accounts for $62 billion of the global AUM figure, but is the fastest-growing region in terms of ETF assets, according to State Street Global Advisors figures as of September 30.

At BGI, Polisson was most recently chief marketing officer, including coverage of the iShares global business. Having joined the group in 1998, he was head of global operations risk management for two years before moving to the iShares business.

Arenberg was a managing director in BGI's global e-business and before that served as managing director of channel marketing at the firm for six years. Prior to joining BGI, he worked in the corporate strategy team in the institutional business at US investment manager Charles Schwab & Co.

Russell's indexes form the basis for ETFs representing $65 billion in assets under management globally, putting the firm in fourth place as an ETF index provider by AUM. As of December 31, Russell had $4 trillion benchmarked to its indexes globally and $176 billion in overall AUM.