Secret Sauce Behind Ark’s Success Is Cathie Wood’s Diverse Team

Cathie Wood’s Ark Investment Management is well known for its wildly optimistic price target for Tesla Inc., its money-spinning bet on Bitcoin and the 81% return of its main fund this year. It’s less well known that almost none of its analysts has a finance background.

Instead, their previous careers include cancer researcher, artificial intelligence expert, gaming engineer -- even sailboat captain.

The 27-person team -- one-quarter people of color, 30% women and most in their 20s -- has built funds around companies with the potential to shape the future, including fintech, space and imaging. Wood attributes many of her firm’s successes to her analysts’ wide range of experiences.

“You’re probably not going to find a more diversified group of people,” Wood said. “They already have one foot in the new world, and they are extremely creative in terms of figuring out how the world is going to work.”

Wood, who is 64, said that if Ark hadn’t hired analysts who’d experimented with CRISPR gene editing technology, “I wouldn’t even know what it was.”

Ark analyst James Wang focuses on AI and the next wave of the Internet. He previously worked for Nvidia and wrote tech columns for an Australian magazine. He joined the firm in 2015 after he heard Wood speaking on Bloomberg Radio, guessed her email address and reached out.

“If we all came from a financial background, we would inevitability have views that are much more similar and more aligned with the current price expectations set by the market,” Wang said.