Cathie Wood and Ark – Hype or Substance?

This article is based on a presentation from John Mauldin’s 2021 Virtual Strategic Investment Conference, which is being held from May 5 to 18. To register for this conference, click here. The Strategic Investment Conference was just approved by CIMA and CFP for 19 hours of continuing education credits.

Cathie Wood may be the most polarizing and controversial figure in finance. Her acolytes believe her vision will make them rich. Her detractors credit her sales skills but question her investing acumen.

I heard her speak for the first time yesterday. Count me among the detractors.

Wood is the founder, CEO, and CIO of Ark Invest, the investment management firm she founded in 2015. Ark’s flagship fund is ARKK, an actively managed ETF with approximately $53 billion in assets. She spoke on May 12 at this year’s Strategic Investment Conference, hosted by John Mauldin.

ARKK has had a spectacular run, achieving 43.5% returns over the last five years. It has benefitted greatly from being positioned in the best-performing growth stocks over that period, and it has had a large position in Tesla, which has greatly helped ARKK’s performance. Most of that outperformance was in just two years – 2017 and 2020.

I’ll review what she said in her talk, highlighting those comments that I doubted.

Her investing focus is on disruptive technology. But she has a view on macroeconomics, having studied under Art Laffer, the economist who became influential during the Reagan administration. Wood discussed how her funds, which are highly concentrated in stocks with high P/E multiples, have fared this year.

“We have been hit hard,” she said.