2020 was a very good year for Cathie Wood.

Photographer: Alex Flynn/Bloomberg

Everyone should know Cathie Wood by now.

That's because whatever benefits central bankers bequeathed to shareholders with next-to-zero interest rates and the record $14 trillion global money supply increase in 2020, Wood beat every stock picker by betting on the innovators in DNA development who are rescuing the world from the global pandemic.

Among the 367 U.S.-based mutual funds with 60% of their $5 billion (or more) in American equities, her ARK Genomic Revolution ETF, ARK Innovation ETF and ARK Next Generation Internet ETF are far ahead, reaping bonanzas of 203%, 159% and 157%, respectively.

ARK: Win, Place, Show

Top 10 funds in 2020 as of Dec. 28.

Wood left her closest competitor trailing by 60 percentage points. She also delivered a total return (income plus appreciation) that is 11 times the gain for the S&P 500; 19 times the average of equity-exchange traded funds; 17 times the advance for the health-care benchmark, and 5 times the similar measure for technology, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. 

Wood achieved these feats with investments she considers so transformational that they have created enough wealth to change the economy's trajectory before and after the coronavirus killed more than 1.7 million people this year.

Her five favorites in ARK Genomic Revolution appreciated a combined 431%. They comprise Arcturus Therapeutics Holdings, the San Diego-based biotech focused on treatments for diseases, including the coronavirus, representing 4.7% of the fund and returning 750% in 2020; Teladoc Health Inc., the Purchase, New York-based health-care services company, 4.6% of the fund and up 136%; Crispr Therapeutics AG, the Basel, Switzerland-based biotech maker of gene-based medicines, 6.2% of the fund and returning 177%; Pacific Biosciences of California Inc., the Menlo Park life science and diagnostics maker of inexpensive DNA sequencing, representing 7% of the fund and returning 432%; and San Francisco's Twist Bioscience Corp., specializing in synthetic DNA, including genome engineering, which gained 661% and is 5.9% of the fund, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The 65-year-old Wood, a summa cum laude graduate in finance and economics from the University of Southern California, has made disruptive innovation her calling card ever since Ark Investment Management LLC became a registered adviser in January 2014 at a point when money management increasingly was a passive, index-driven business. Her focus on genome sequencing, robotics, artificial intelligence, energy storage and blockchain technology proved prescient: ARK Genomic Revolution has attracted record monthly inflows in December, bringing the fund's new money total for 2020 to $4.7 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. 

A December to Remember

Monthly inflows to ARK Genomic Revolution.

Unlike most of her competitors, who rely on market benchmarks to determine the size of their holdings, Wood enabled ARK Genomic Revolution to increase 225%, or $5.2 billion in the most recent quarter, by purchasing an additional 1.5 million shares of Arcturus Therapeutics, keeping its weighting at 4.7%. She added 7 million shares of Pacific Biosciences of California, raising its weighting to 7.1% from 5.6%, and boosted Twist Bioscience by 1.4 million shares, pushing its weighting to 5.9% from 4.7%. She reduced her Invitae Corp. holding to 3.6% of the fund from 12% and cut Crispr Therapeutics to 6.2% from 8%, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

All of which proved her prowess for dynamic and transparent investing to the extent her ARK Innovation ETF, the second-best performer among the 367 funds this year with a total return of 159%, dethroned JPMorgan in December as the largest actively managed ETF. Among ARK Innovation's top three holdings, Palo Alto-based Tesla Inc. appreciated 696% this year and contributed 39 percentage points to the fund's performance; Roku Inc., the San Jose internet media company gained 154%, or 11 percentage points, and Crispr, 9 percentage points.

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