PMI Group, the third-largest mortgage insurer, has named a vice president whose main responsibility will be to work on alliances with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The appointment of James R. Wagner to the new post underscores the need of mortgage insurance companies to work with the gargantuan quasi- governmental agencies that buy home loans.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac play a crucial role in the mortgage insurance business, because they require private insurance for loans with down payments of less than 20%. The agencies will not purchase uninsured low- down-payment loans.

In addition, many mortgage insurance companies underwrite mortgages for larger customers, and in doing so use the automated underwriting systems that the agencies have developed.

Mr. Wagner, 43, has been with PMI since 1982. Before being named to his new position, he was vice president for national accounts.

In that role he managed relationships with PMI's largest lender customers.

He said several of PMI's departments have had relationships with the two agencies. PMI works with them on affordable housing, risk management, and technological issues, for example. "But there had not been a focal point to coordinate these activities," he said.

Because competition in the mortgage industry has increased, Mr. Wagner said, PMI felt it needed one person to supervise the myriad programs it has with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

But other insurers said that they prefer to have several executives working with the agencies. Douglas J. MacLeod, senior vice president of marketing for CMAC Investment Corp., said he is one of three executives who oversee initiatives with the agencies.

Another mortgage insurance company said it makes sense to have a large group of employees dealing with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

"The job is too big to designate one person and have them do it all," said one mortgage insurance executive.

The executive added that the company also has employees in the Washington area who meet regularly with representatives of the agencies.

Mr. MacLeod said since CMAC, based in Philadelphia, is a short train ride from Washington, there is no need for staff in Washington.

But Mr. Wagner, who works in PMI's San Francisco headquarters, said he plans to spend a significant amount of time in Washington and is forming a staff to assist him.

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