Wall Street's hottest investor is betting big on a handful of stocks. Critics say she's playing with fire

It’s a high-flying, high-risk, high-reward tier of investing. And it is put Wood’s followers on a white-knuckle experience in 2021.

Last 12 months, Wood’s technique paid enormous dividends for buyers in her flagship Ark Innovation (ARKK) exchange-traded fund. It surged almost 150% in 2020 and helped flip her right into a Wall Street famous person — kind of the Warren Buffett of momentum investing.

But this 12 months hasn’t been almost as variety to Wood because the final. The Innovation ETF was down 2.5% by way of late August, regardless of a red-hot marketplace for tech with the Nasdaq up greater than 18% to date in 2021.

Wood wasn’t obtainable to remark for this story, however she doubled down in an interview with CNBC in August. She’s not anxious that the Ark technique of searching for new tech leaders will finish badly, and he or she maintains that this present rally is not going to be a repeat of the epic 2000 dot-com implosion.

“I don’t think we’re in a bubble, which is what I think many bears think we are,” Wood informed CNBC. “We have nothing like that right now. In fact, you see a lot of IPOs or SPACs coming out and falling to Earth. We couldn’t be further away from a bubble.”

How Wood developed her technique

Wood speaks from expertise. She’s no millennial or Gen Z investor for whom the 2000 tech implosion is merely a battle story informed by older merchants. The 65-year-old Wood lived by way of the final main tech crash, in addition to the notorious Black Monday of 1987.

She labored for Prudential-owned cash supervisor Jennison Associates for 18 years within the Eighties and Nineteen Nineties after which spent a dozen years at AllianceBernstein earlier than leaving in 2013.

But then, AllianceBernstein handed on her concept to launch a collection of actively managed exchange-traded funds. So she struck out on her personal and began Ark in 2014.

“I have been watching disruptive innovation for my entire career — why don’t I help my own sector along?” she told Forbes in a 2014 interview.

That give attention to disruption means Wood ties her ETF’s fortunes to visionary however mercurial leaders.

In probably the most distinguished instance, Wood stays an unabashed fan of Tesla (TSLA) and CEO Elon Musk. The EV maker is the highest inventory, by far, in Ark’s Innovation ETF, accounting for greater than 10% of the fund’s holdings. It’s additionally the most important place in Ark’s Autonomous Technology & Robotics (ARKQ) and Next Generation Internet (ARKW) ETFs.
Wood is a vocal fan of Tesla, which is a top holding in several of Ark's funds.

Wood can also be OK with firms like Tesla issuing extra inventory to boost cash to fund futuristic tasks like autonomous autos. Some buyers are cautious of that technique as a result of the brand new shares decrease the worth of current buyers’ holdings, however she thinks that is a short-sighted argument, significantly from Tesla bears.

“We’re not afraid of dilution … if we think they’re doing it for the right reason,” she informed CNBC. “We wanted them to scale as quickly as possible because we think if we’re right on autonomous …Tesla could get the lion’s share of that market, certainly in the United States.”

You don't have to be rich to cash in on the space race
Ark’s massive funding in Tesla is a wager on Musk persevering with to innovate past the enterprise of electrical automobiles, Wood defined in an interview with Bloomberg Radio in August. She raved about Tesla’s plans to build a humanoid robot, for instance.

“Every passing day, especially the more we learn about their AI expertise and how they’re really driving the space … we believe they have the pole position,” she mentioned, noting that Ark analysts had been “blown away” by Musk’s presentation.

Growth in any respect prices

Wood acknowledges her growth-at-all-costs means of investing isn’t for everybody.

Tesla has lagged the broader market this 12 months. Shares of Teladoc (TDOC), a telehealth firm that’s the second-largest holding within the Ark Innovation ETF and was a giant winner at the beginning of the pandemic, are down greater than 25% in 2021.
“We’ve seen higher-valuation stocks hit hard this year. But the growth for these innovative companies will still be treated well over time,” Wood mentioned during a webcast hosted by Cboe Global Markets in March.

Wood added that she thinks buyers additionally ought to put a small share of their cash in bitcoin, one other dangerous wager. And she careworn that buyers need to overlook the inevitable short-term bumps that include any asset. It’s important to keep up longer-term convictions and make investments for future development, Wood believes.

“A lot of companies catering to short-term investors who wanted profits now [have] invested more in stock buybacks and dividends over innovation,” she mentioned. “That puts them in harm’s way.”

A colleague describes Wood’s go-big-or-go-home method as a mannequin for the brand new means of investing. Too many fund managers are afraid to look far into the long run when judging an organization’s deserves, as a substitute focusing myopically on the prior and subsequent quarterly earnings reviews.  

“Cathie has been focusing on Tesla for a long time. She looks at it not just as an automobile manufacturer. You can’t compare it to traditional car companies,” Ark Invest’s Ren Leggi, who works intently with Wood on funding choices as the corporate’s shopper portfolio supervisor, informed CNN Business in March.

Wood’s critics

But a rising refrain of skeptics assume Wood’s funds might finally collapse. Michael Burry, one of many super-bearish buyers made well-known in “The Big Short,” just lately established a brief place on the Ark Innovation ETF — basically betting that it’ll fall sharply.

Some tech inventory veterans additionally marvel if Wood is simply an investing taste of the month, evaluating her to once-popular portfolio managers like Kevin Landis of Firsthand Funds, Alberto Vilar of Amerindo and Garrett Van Wagoner, who ran a preferred emerging-growth fund within the late Nineteen Nineties.

Many of these tech funds imploded following the 2000 bubble. The Wall Street Journal wrote a catch-up piece about Van Wagoner and different late Nineteen Nineties tech gurus in 2010 with the headline “From Fame, Fortune to Flamed-Out Stars. Post-Bust Fates of Tech-Fund Mavens.”

Is Wood destined for related ignominy?

Rivals take challenge with Wood making such massive bets on solely a handful of shares. The Ark Innovation ETF, for instance, has almost half its property concentrated in its prime 10 holdings. Beyond Tesla, that fund additionally owns sizable stakes in Roku (ROKU), Coinbase, Zoom (ZM) and Square (SQ).
Roku is another example of a high-risk/high-reward stock that Wood loves.

“Our investment approach is similar to Ark in that we are focusing on tech. But we’re different in that we avoid concentration,”Jeremie Capron, head of analysis at ROBO Global, informed CNN Business in March.

The prime 10 holdings within the ROBO Global Robotics and Automation Index (ROBO) ETF account for lower than 20% of the fund’s whole property, and the fund owns about 80 shares. Ark funds sometimes personal shares in solely about 30 to 50 firms.

For the time being, Wood is having the final snicker.

Yes, her fund’s returns could also be unstable year-to-year — the Ark Innovation ETF fell almost 25% in 2018 earlier than rebounding 30% in 2019 — but it surely has tended to clean out. The five-year common annualized return for the Ark Innovation ETF by way of mid-2021 was 48.6%, in comparison with 17.7% for the S&P 500.

As lengthy as that long-term development continues, Ark acolytes could forgive a down 12 months every so often as Wood continues to swing for the fences.

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