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 BB&T's (NYSE:BBT) outstanding common stock.
A broad overview
As you can see in the following chart, the majority of BB&T's 700 million shares are held by institutional investors. Company insiders, including board members and corporate executives, own a further 0.48% of the outstanding common stock. And the public at large owns the remaining 41%.
Digging in a big further, the largest institutional stakeholders in BB&T are bond giant BlackRock (NYSE:BLK), The Vanguard Group, the asset management division of State Street (NYSE:STT), Dodge & Cox, and Longview Partners.
The largest buyers have been Robeco Group and BlackRock, which have recently acquired 4.1 million and 4.0 million shares of common stock, respectively. Meanwhile, the two largest sellers of late have been Fidelity Investments and Wellington Management Co., which have disposed of 8.7 million and 2.1 million shares, respectively.
Turning to inside investors, the largest inside owners all sit on BB&T's board of directors including John Allison IV, Thomas Thompson, and Stephen Taylor Williams. The highest ranking executive and fourth largest inside owner is Kelly King, the bank's chief executive officer.
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.