When it comes to investing, going with the crowd will rarely if ever make you rich. If your objective is to buy low and sell high, then, in the words of Warren Buffett, you must be "greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy." This is the foundation of contrarian investing.
But there's a twist. To be a contrarian investor, you must first know what to be contrary to. And this is where the SEC's invaluable EDGAR database comes in. Every quarter companies and large institutional investors are required to disclose their equity holdings. By patching these together, we can get a fuller picture of a particular stock's popularity.
What follows, in turn, is a look at the principal owners of Bank of America's (NYSE: BAC ) outstanding common stock.
A broad overview
As you can see in the following chart, the majority of B of A's nearly 11 billion shares are held by institutional investors. Company insiders, including board members and corporate executives, own a further 0.06% of the outstanding common stock. And the public at large owns the remaining 40%.
Digging in a big further, the largest institutional stake holders in B of A are asset managers. Bond giant BlackRock (NYSE: BLK ) tops the list at 4.9% ownership, followed by The Vanguard Group at 4.3%, and the asset management arms of State Street (NYSE: STT ) , Citigroup (NYSE: C ) , and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) at 4.2%, 2.1%, and 1.8%, respectively.
The largest buyers have been Citigroup and Fidelity investments, which have recently acquired 226 million and 66 million shares of common stock, respectively. Meanwhile, the two largest sellers of late have been Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, which have disposed of 54 million and 22 million shares, respectively.
Turning to inside investors, far and away the largest inside owner is Thomas Montag, B of A's co-chief operating officer, who received the equivalent of more than 1.5 million shares as a part of B of A's Merrill Lynch acquisition. The second largest holder is board member Charles Gifford with 796,283 shares -- Gifford was the chairman and chief executive officer at FleetBoston Financial before B of A acquired it 2004. And it's not until you get to the fifth place that current CEO Brian Moynihan appears with an equivalent of nearly half a million shares.
The Foolish bottom line
While insider and institutional ownership together represent only one metric, it's nevertheless an important one. Beyond hinting at the overall market's sentiment toward a stock, it also gives investors insight into the confidence of the people best positioned to predict a company's current state and future success.
Want to learn more about B of A?
To learn more about the most talked-about bank out there, check out our in-depth company report on Bank of America. The report details Bank of America's prospects, including three reasons to buy and three reasons to sell. Just click here to get access.