For too long, Fidelity Investments has been criticized for not aggressively pursuing the ETF market by rolling out its own funds. Now it appears that Fidelity is giving its critics something to really talk about.  

The Boston-based mutual fund giant filed its most significant registration application with the SEC yet —a plan to offer a broad array of index ETFs covering various categories, including “long and short” funds.

Low management fees are a big appeal for ETF investors along with financial advisors. The average annual expense ratio for an actively managed large cap stock mutual fund is 1.28 percent compared to just 0.35 percent for large cap stock ETFs.

Currently, Fidelity only manages one ETF, the Nasdaq Composite Index Tracking Fund (ONEQ), which has just $153 million in assets.

Fidelity-branded ETFs would allow the company to follow a similar path as Charles Schwab and Scottrade in offering its brokerage clients special breaks on ETF trades.

In 2009, Schwab rolled out its proprietary ETFs with a commission-free trading offer that resonated with investors. Today, Schwab’s 15 ETFs command around $5 billion in assets. •