By Jemima Whyte: Phil Chronican, veteran banker, All Blacks supporter, keen cyclist and acting National Australia Bank chief executive, demurred this week when asked if he wanted to be the bank's chairman.
"Look, I really have no comment. This is so early in the process and I've committed myself over the next few months to do something else. So I think we'll let that one play out over the course of the year," the 62-year-old said on a call with media on Thursday night, following the announcement he would act as interim chief executive after Andrew Thorburn and Ken Henry resigned.
By Friday morning, Mr Chronican, who has been a NAB non-executive director since May 2016, was the red-hot favourite to take on the chairmanship, as calls for an external candidate to replace the departing chief executive increased.
But the New Zealand-born Mr Chronican has been the market's top pick before - and been disappointed at least once, if not twice.
First at Westpac, when Gail Kelly was appointed chief executive. Mr Chronican, then head of institutional banking, had been widely tipped as the successor to David Morgan.
He then ran ANZ's Australian division, and while many expected he would be a logical ANZ chief, Mr Chronican left in 2015 to pursue non-executive director roles, a few years before ANZ chief executive Mike Smith resigned.
Highly numerate, understated banker
Whether or not this relatively low-profile former banking executive is ultimately chosen for NAB's top job, this new role at NAB will ensure he earns a far higher corporate profile.
Those who have worked with Mr Chronican, who has also acted as Westpac's chief financial officer and deputy chief executive, describe him as a highly numerate, understated banker, who has diverse banking experience.
That spans working on Westpac's Best Bank program under Bob Joss, through to doing due diligence for Westpac on Singapore's DBS, a deal that was never done, as well as involved in the failed merger talks between Westpac and AMP.
He's said before his favourite failed M&A project was code-named WOMBAT, which forever after was known inside Westpac as the acronym for the following: waste of money, brains and talent
"I worked very closely at Westpac with Phil Chronican over a span of 15 years or so in a variety of capacities. He is a first-rate banker, a first-rate person, and can be relied upon to do a first-rate job," Dr Morgan, whose name has also come up as a potential candidate for the NAB chairmanship, said on Friday.
Never loses his cool
Others who have worked with Mr Chronican say they've never seen him lose his cool, though he will make it clear when he is disappointed in a job that hasn't been done well. He was also an early champion of the Banking and Finance Oath and "it wasn't just window dressing", according to one former colleague.
In an interview while heading ANZ's Australian bank, Mr Chronican said so-called "soft skills" are the hardest to learn, and admitted to having to overcome an earlier habit of entering a room and simply talking to the small group of people he knows, to talking to everyone else about things that interest them.
As well as NAB, Mr Chronican is also a director of the NSW Treasury Corporation, and The Westmead Institute for Medical Research.
He's been closely involved for decades with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, though stepped down from the board last year, tweeting regularly about bike riding to raise funds for the charity.
Engaged with community
He remains on the heavy-hitting advisory board, which meets once a year. He also bikes and hikes when at his property in Queenstown.
"He's very genuine and engaged with the community. Equally in the board room, he'll reflect and ask exactly the right questions at the right time," said JDRF chief executive Mike Wilson.
Mr Chronican is married to Sarah Harland, Suncorp's chief information officer. In 2012, his first wife Leanne Chronican died after a battle with the effects of transplantations required as a result of type 1 diabetes complications.
In August 2016, Mr Chronican moved back to Sydney and bought a $7.7 million house in the north shore harbourside suburb of Kurraba Point.