Michael A. Smilow, the influential chief credit officer of the Federal National Mortgage Association, plans to retire at the end of January.

Mr. Smilow, 55, said he wants to find a chief executive's post within the financial services industry now that he has attained his goals at Fannie Mae.

In announcing the impending retirement, the agency said it is launching a search for Mr. Smilow's replacement.

Position of Influence

Mr. Smilow, an eight-year veteran of Fannie Mae, exerts broad power over the mortgage market as the person who sets credit standards for the mortgages that the agency buys from lenders.

James A. Johnson, Fannie Mae's chairman, praised Mr. Smilow for maintaining high credit quality during the recession.

As of March 31, delinquencies of 90 days or more accounted for 0.63% of the loans held or securitized by Fannie, unchanged from a year earlier.

Mr. Smilow brought "an important discipline and lasting foundation to our underwriting standards," Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Smilow, one of four executive vice presidents at Fannie Mae, said he was proud of his role in the agency's financial turnaround, but added that he was ready for change.

Financially Independent

"It's fair to say I've achieved some financial independence, and that's what makes all this possible," he said in an interview.

"What I'd really like to do, frankly, is run a company," he said.

Mr. Smilow, who joined Fannie Mae as executive vice president of marketing in 1984, earned $435,256 in cash compensation last year, according to the agency's proxy statement.

Prior to his stint in Washington, he was an executive vice president at Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corp. in Milwaukee.

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