When the scandal-plagued bank Wells Fargo (WFC) - Get Wells Fargo & Company Report announced the sudden departure of CEO Tim Sloan in March, speculation mounted that the search for a successor, led by board Chair Betsy Duke, could result in the first-ever female chief of a giant U.S. bank.
But according to The Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco-based bank has considered three more male candidates from the financial industry -- all unwilling or reluctant to step into the role.
They include Gordon Smith, co-president and head of consumer banking at JPMorgan Chase (JPM) - Get JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) Report , the largest U.S. financial company, as well as William Demchak, CEO of the Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group. (PNC) - Get PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. Report , the newspaper reported. Richard Davis, CEO of U.S. Bancorp (USB) - Get U.S. Bancorp Report , also was reportedly approached.
Smith has told colleagues he is "reluctant to take the job and is likely to stay" at New York-based JPMorgan, while Demchak and Davis passed on the opportunity, according to the article.
Wells Fargo has kept the CEO search process mostly under wraps, and on Tuesday a spokeswoman for the bank declined to comment on the new report. But leaks and speculation have abounded.
Initially, two former Goldman Sachs executives -- both male -- were reported to be under consideration, along with another former JPMorgan executive, also male.
Then last week, Reuters reported that the board might even consider keeping Allen Parker, a male former Wall Street lawyer who was tapped as interim CEO, in the role permanently.
Duke's leadership of the board -- as well as an unusually high percentage of women recruited to shake up the board after the oversight failures that led to a series of alleged customer-abuse scandals that have cost the bank at least $4.5 billion -- had led to speculation that the bank might choose a woman as its next chief.
Reuters reported in April, citing "people familiar with the matter," that the bank had tapped the recruiting firm Spencer Stuart to manage the search, under a plan to "ideally find a woman."
American Banker even posted a list of five female candidates from the likes of JPMorgan, Bank of America (BAC) - Get Bank of America Corp Report , Citigroup (C) - Get Citigroup Inc. Report and (PNC) - Get PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. Report .
But lately, the guesswork has centered on male candidates.
Maybe no women want the job?