Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is widely expected to step down when his second term at the helm of the U.S. central bank expires on January 31, 2014.
If history is any guide, President Barack Obama will pick a candidate to succeed the one-time Princeton University professor sometime during the summer, allowing ample time for the Senate to consider the nominee before a final confirming vote.
Here is a quick look at the likely leading choices:
Yellen, 66, has been Fed vice chair since 2010. She has been a forceful advocate of the aggressive steps taken under Bernanke to spur U.S. economic growth, earning her a reputation as a policy "dove" who would tolerate a bit more inflation to drive down unemployment that she deemed too high.
If picked to succeed Bernanke, she would become the 100-year-old central bank's first female chief. Prior to her current post, Yellen was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. She also served as chairman of the White House Council of Economics Advisors under President Bill Clinton, and was a Fed Board governor in Washington from 1994 to 1997.
A former professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Yellen is a highly respected economist with a high standing among other academics. She began her career as an assistant professor at Harvard in the early 1970s before shifting over to the Fed.
Summers, 58, is an eminent Harvard economist who was Obama's first National Economic Council director, a post within the president's inner circle. He also served President Bill Clinton as Treasury secretary and before that in other senior Treasury posts.
Viewed as brilliant but prickly, Summers was a full Harvard professor by the age of 28 and was later university president. But his abrasive style made enemies, and he resigned as president in 2006. That said, his expertise, professional accomplishments and his service to Obama are likely to earn him serious consideration for the top Fed post.
Since leaving the Obama White House in 2010, Summers has returned to teaching at Harvard and has also joined the board of several private companies and become a part-time special adviser to venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. He also worked for hedge fund D.E. Shaw from 2006 until November 2008, when he was picked by Obama to run the NEC.
Timothy Geithner, 51, was Obama's first-term Treasury secretary. He is also seen as a possible contender for the nomination, but has said that he does not want the job.
If Geithner could be persuaded to change his mind, his track-record is compelling. Before he was tapped for Treasury, he was already at the center of the nation's emergency response to the financial crisis as head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. He also served in senior posts in the Clinton Treasury and at the International Monetary Fund.
Geithner is currently writing a book.
Ferguson, 61, is currently chief executive of TIAA-CREF, which manages retirement funds for many of the nation's schools and hospitals. A Harvard-educated economist and lawyer who was Fed vice chairman from 1999 to 2006, Ferguson was highly respected within the Fed as a very smart and thorough policymaker. His appointment would be historical: it would make him the first African-American to chair the U.S. central bank.
A lifetime Fed insider who retired as vice chairman in 2010 after 40 years at the central bank, Kohn is a hugely respected economist who would be viewed as a safe choice to lead the Fed, if he could be persuaded to return to public office.
Before taking a Fed board seat, Kohn, 70, was a top staff lieutenant to then-chairman Alan Greenspan. He is now an external member of the Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee, which sets broad guidelines for the U.K. financial system, and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
(Reporting by Alister Bull; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)