Wood is now fighting for his reputation and against allegations that his approach to stock picking is based on little more than faith.
Born in Los Angeles to Irish immigrants, Wood graduated from the University of Southern California in 1981. Among her teachers was Arthur Laffer, the economist behind the Laffer Curve – used to illustrate the argument that where reducing tax rates can sometimes lead to an increase in total tax revenue.
Wood then moved on to Wall Street and spent nearly two decades at investment adviser Jennison Associates. She credits this period with shaping her career, telling Jesus Calling: “I couldn’t cover something that someone else was obviously covering in the business, so I had to wait for new ideas are coming in, ideas that kind of fell through the cracks that no one wanted”.
“It’s what made my career, but also made me appreciate innovation, the power of innovation, how underestimated it is at the start and how exponentially explosive growth can be. over time.”
After working at a hedge fund, Wood joined AllianceBernstein in 2001 as chief investment officer for global themes. It had $5bn (£3.7bn) under management and underperformed the market during the financial crisis. Morningstar analysis noted the high volatility of his investment – a taste of things to come.
Richard Davies, who worked with Wood at AB, said: “It was clear that Cathie was unique and perhaps not a natural fit within a traditional long-only asset manager.”
“I believe this focus continues today,” he adds. “Conviction came from believing in long-term technology trends at the expense of short-term market movements. The reverse of most equity analysts.
Then, one summer day, Wood received his “call.” This led her to found Ark Invest in 2014, named after the Ark of the Covenant and initially funded with her own money in the slow early years. She favored a “growth” strategy, choosing companies she believed would disrupt or transform industries, and held huge potential for future performance, although many still struggled to turn a profit.
It embraced transparency, updating investors daily on what it was buying, selling and reading. She put money into robotics, AI, energy storage, biotech, and even sports betting. There is, however, a consistent theme for Wood-backed companies. They’re all based on big ideas about how people live, work, travel or pay change.