This article was updated on Nov. 12, 2014.
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 Wells Fargo's (NYSE: WFC ) outstanding common stock.
A broad overview
As you can see in the following chart, the majority of Wells Fargo's 5.2 billion shares are held by institutional investors. Company insiders, including board members and corporate executives, own a further 0.07% of the outstanding common stock. And the public at large owns the remaining 20%.
Digging in a big further, the largest institutional stakeholder in Wells Fargo is Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A ) (NYSE: BRK-B ) , which owns 9.45% of the bank. Finishing off the five biggest institutional investors are asset managers: Bond giant BlackRock (NYSE: BLK ) has an 5.6% stake, followed by The Vanguard Group, the asset management arm of State Street (NYSE: STT ) , and Capital Research & Management.
The largest buyers have been JPMorgan Asset Management Holdings and AllianceBernstein, which have recently acquired 6.9 million and 6.8 million shares of common stock, respectively. Meanwhile, the two largest sellers of late have been Wellington Management Co. and Lansdowne Partners, which have disposed of 8.3 million and 6.9 million shares, respectively.
Biggest inside investors
Turning to individual investors, the largest inside owner is John Stumpf, the bank's current chairman and chief executive officer. The second largest is David Hoyt, the former senior executive vice president of wholesale banking. And the third largest insider is Carrie Tolstedt, the senior executive vice president of community banking.
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 Wells Fargo?
Wells Fargo's dedication to solid, conservative banking helped it vastly outperform its peers during the financial meltdown. Today, Wells is the same great bank as ever, but with its stock trading at a premium to the rest of the industry, is there still room to buy, or is it time to cash in your gains? To help figure out whether Wells Fargo is a buy today, I invite you to download our premium research report from one of The Motley Fool's top banking analysts. Click here now for instant access to this in-depth take on Wells Fargo.