CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Bank of America Corp CEO Ken Lewis' year-end retirement is fast approaching and the bank's search committee is still hunting for a successor.

Some media outlets have reported a replacement could be named within the next week, despite a shrinking pool of external candidates as the search begins its second full month.

Bank of America has disclosed that the heads of its five major business units, in addition to its chief risk officer, are candidates for the top job, but it has not named any external candidates.

Below is short list of the likeliest internal and external candidates, suggested by analysts and Bank of America observers, including the two top internal replacements. A Bank of America spokesman declined to comment.

GREGORY CURL, 61, chief risk officer, Bank of America

Once considered by bank observers as an also-ran in the race, Curl's name has emerged as one of the key internal contenders for the job.

Curl, with the bank since 1996, became chief risk officer in June 2009. The former naval officer is seen as a nod to the risk management the bank may need from the top job, given Bank of America's continuing credit woes, which include rising credit card defaults, and as net charge-offs totaled $9.6 billion in the most recent quarter.

BRIAN MOYNIHAN, 49, retail banking head, Bank of America

Moynihan is considered by many bank analysts and observers as the choice if Bank of America's board decides to appoint an internal successor, but regulators may chafe at his selection.

Moynihan has been a senior executive at the bank, in various capacities, since joining as part of the FleetBoston buyout in 2004, most recently running Bank of America's 6,000 branch-strong retail banking franchise, which has nearly a trillion in total deposits.

While he's bounced around in roles within the bank in the last year -- general counsel, head of global wealth management and consumer bank chief in the last 12 months -- observers said one key fact may give Moynihan the inside track -- he is closely aligned with former FleetBoston executives and directors Charles Gifford, Thomas May and Thomas Ryan.

All three worked closely with Moynihan at FleetBoston and they are all on Bank of America's six-member CEO search committee.

But he is also viewed as a close ally of the bank's recent leadership team, including Lewis. Because of that, Bank of America's regulators, notably the U.S. Treasury and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, may want an external replacement, observers said.

Moynihan said in an interview on Wednesday that he is keen to step into the CEO spot, but will stay on even if he does not get it.

ALVARO DE MOLINA, 52, CEO of GMAC Financial Services

De Molina, according to some familiar with the bank, is a sentimental favorite in some corners of the company.
De Molina joined GMAC Financial Services as CEO in June 2007 after a nearly two-decade career at Bank of America, including stops as the bank's chief financial officer, corporate treasurer and head of global corporate and investment banking.

While he was seen as a likely successor early in this process, GMAC Financial's continuing problems -- it is seeking a third round of bailout money totaling as much as $5.6 billion -- complicates his departure, observers said.

LAURENCE FINK, 56, CEO of BlackRock Inc (BLK.N)

Fink's name has circulated in various media reports as being pursued by Bank of America, yet such links have been denied.

And analysts say with good reason.

Running Bank of America would be a risk -- in terms of reputation and pay -- that is not worth his secure position at the helm of the world's largest asset management firm, which he co-founded.

But its easy to see why Bank of America might covet Fink, analysts said. His firm -- once it completes a previously announced deal with Barclays -- will become the largest asset manager in the world.

His company's stock price has soared 200 percent over the last five years, with its most recent third quarter net income up 50 percent from a the prior year.

EUGENE MCQUADE, 60, Chief Executive of Citibank, N.A.(C.N)

McQuade, CEO of Citigroup's domestic retail bank, would be unique among potential candidates for Lewis' job -- he has held senior posts at both Bank of America and Merrill Lynch before they merged in January 2009.

McQuade served as both a former vice chairman at Merrill Lynch and president of Merrill Lynch banks, as well as a former president at Bank of America Corp. In between, there was a stint at Freddie Mac's chief operating officer.

The long-time FleetBoston executive joined Bank of America as part of that merger and could steward the integration of the largest brokerage business with the country's largest retail bank, analysts said.

GREG FLEMING, 45, Yale Law School professor

Fleming, the former second-in-command at Merrill Lynch, is the favorite of some in the Merrill Lynch contingent of the combined institution, analysts said.

Merrill Lynch's former chief operating officer left the combined company for academia on Jan. 8, 2009, soon after the merger with Bank of America closed.

Fleming joined Merrill Lynch in 1992 and rose through the ranks to serve as co-president of the Global Markets and Investment Banking Group from 2003-2007, before being named COO.
Analysts conceded that, while his appointment is a remote possibility, such a move would serve as a clear signal the Merrill Lynch portion of the combined company would be the dominant force in leadership going forward.

Fleming was widely considered a potential candidate for Merrill Lynch's CEO post, if the firm remained independent. (Reporting by Joe Rauch in Charlotte, Elinor Comlay and Steve Eder in New York; editing by Andre Grenon)