The literature on institutional ownership and stock return volatility often ignores small emerging countries. However, this issue is more profound, due to the large size of institutional investors and small stock market size, in emerging equity markets. This paper examines the effects of the institutional ownership on the firm-level volatility of stock returns in Vietnam. Our data cover most of non-financial firms listed on the Ho Chi Minh City stock exchange for the period 2006–2012. Employing different analysis techniques for panel data and controlling for possible endogeneity problems, our empirical results suggest that institutional investors stabilize the stock return volatility. Moreover, we document that: i) the stabilizing effect of institutional investor ownership is higher in dividend paying firms, and ii) if firms are paying out more dividends, this stabilizing effect is greater. Our results outline the important role of institutional investors in maintaining the stability in emerging stock markets.