Paul Mullings, the president and chief executive officer of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc., is leaving the company to join Chase Manhattan Mortgage.

Mr. Mullings said his work in getting the firm off the ground is largely done.

The fledgling firm operates Mers, an electronic registry that tracks ownership of servicing rights. Mr. Mullings' departure comes just as Mers is gaining acceptance. Several large lenders, including Norwest Mortgage and First Nationwide Mortgage, have begun to register their loans on Mers.

Last month Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government- sponsored enterprises that buy mortgages, agreed to let Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems be listed as the mortgagee of record on mortgage documents.

This, Mr. Mullings said last month, will attract more lenders because they will be able to close loans under the Mers name and immediately register the loans on the system.

Mr. Mullings joined Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems in February 1996, when it was in the idea stage.

"Mers has come through the most difficult phase," Mr. Mullings said. "This was as good a time as any to accept another challenge."

Mr. Mullings will start with Chase, the third-largest originator and servicer of mortgages, on Dec. 1 as a senior vice president of mortgage finance. He said he will be mainly in charge of structured finance and managing relationships with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He will report to Luke Hayden, a Chase Manhattan Mortgage executive vice president.

Gregory T. Barmore, former chairman of GE Capital Mortgage Services, will replace Mr. Mullings on an interim basis. He retired from his GE job last year and has been a consultant to Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems since August.

Mr. Barmore said he does not want the job permanently. He said he and Mr. Mullings will help Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems' board in its search for a successor. Mr. Barmore said the company will not use a search firm.

Industry observers said it was too soon to speculate about who Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems may contact for the job.

Observers said Mr. Mullings' successor would have to be someone well- connected in the industry who could maintain relationships with the more than 150 companies that have signed up to use Mers.

A chief executive would also have to work effectively with the company's various owners. Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems is owned by a consortium of mortgage companies including lenders, mortgage insurers, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

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