US President Barack Obama has passed over better-known candidates and nominated global health expert and Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-born physician, to lead the World Bank.
It was a surprise pick aimed in part at fending off challenges from developing nations eager to end the US monopoly of the top job at the international institution.
Mr Obama's appointment all but guarantees that Kim, a 52-year-old pioneer in treating HIV/Aids and tuberculosis in the developing world, will take over at the helm of the World Bank. Though he was born abroad, he will extend a tradition of American presidents dating back to the organisation's founding in 1944.
The 187-nation World Bank focuses on fighting poverty and promoting development. It is a leading source of development loans for countries seeking financing to build dams, roads and other infrastructure projects.
Several developing nations had sought to break the US leadership streak when current Bank President Robert Zoellick announced he would step down at the end of June. That put Mr Obama in the delicate position of balancing his desire to see emerging economies step forward on the world stage and the pressures of an election year.
His support for a non-US candidate could have provoked fresh criticism from opposition Republicans, who frequently question whether Mr Obama believes in the notion of "American exceptionalism".
As Mr Obama announced Mr Kim's nomination from the White House Rose Garden, he tried to make the case that an American with a unique background and broad international experience would be a committed representative of the developing world's interests.
"Jim has truly global experience. He has worked from Asia to Africa to the Americas, from capitals to small villages," Mr Obama said. "His personal story exemplifies the great diversity to our country."
The World Bank's 25-member executive board will officially select a new president next month. But given that the US as the world's largest economy, has the largest percentage of the votes, Mr Kim is expected to prevail. Still, Mr Kim's nomination was expected to face some resistance from those who believe it is time for the developing world to take the reins at an organisation focused on addressing its needs.
Officials at Oxfam, the international aid agency, urged the World Bank to welcome a genuine debate about its leadership and not just rubber-stamp the US selection.