The World Bank on Friday launched the nomination process to select a new president to succeed Robert Zoellick when he steps down in June, inviting names from any of its 187 member countries.
The board said in a statement nominations had to be submitted by 23 March and it hoped to select its top choice by the time of the World Bank and IMF meetings in April.
It said it would short-list three candidates and publish their names if they agree. Zoellick said on Wednesday he will leave his post at the end of June when his five-year term ends.
The World Bank provides loans and grants to emerging and developing countries to fight poverty through projects that also help to develop their economies.
Developing countries have for years pressed for a greater voice in leading global financial institutions and are likely to stress the importance of a competitive process, but the United States is still widely expected to retain its hold on the job.
US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Thursday the United States would name its candidate within weeks in an open process, carefully avoiding any appearance he was closing the door to other candidates.
So far, two people most often mentioned as possible successors are both American: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former White House economic adviser and former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. The State Department has insisted that Clinton would not be taking the job.
Emerging markets, which made an aggressive push for the top job at the International Monetary Fund last year after the sudden resignation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn as managing director, were irked by Europe's immediate claim on the job.
There is little evidence, however, that emerging markets could field a candidate and build a coalition large enough to challenge the United States.
The World Bank board said it agreed candidates should have a proven track record of leadership, experience of managing large organizations, be firmly committed to multilateral cooperation and have a clear vision of the Bank's development mission.