NEW YORK - Barclays Global Investors has become the first investment management company to offer exchange-traded funds to retail investors.

On Thursday the firm launched four equity technology and index funds, and plans to add a total of 54 more during the next few months, a spokeswoman said.

The firm is adding the funds to specifically compete with Vanguard Funds, which announced recently that it plans to launch several exchange-traded funds in the near future, said a spokeswoman for Barclays. The firm is challenging Vanguard's Standard & Poor's 500 Index closed-end fund by setting the expense ratio of its own exchange-traded S & P Index fund to .0945% - which is half that of Vanguard's, said the spokeswoman.

The firm anticipates competition in marketing exchange traded funds to the retail market in the near future from other money management firms, she added.

Most of the Barclays funds will be indexed to U.S. equities, but 18 of them will specifically focus on overseas equities.

Funds to be issued in the ensuing weeks will focus on the Russell 1000 index, Dow Jones, and other Standard and Poor's indexes.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.