And now the bonus question: Is AIB still living in denial?

Cantillon: Call for bonuses to keep ‘talent’ incompatible with foot-dragging on trackers

AIB chairman Richard Pym at bank’s agm. Photograph: Sam Boal/

For a sector supposedly trying to convince customers, regulators and politician shareholders that it is a very different creature from the reckless character who almost bankrupted the State during the Celtic Tiger years, banks have a very funny way of behaving.

Fiscally responsible and socially conscious – those are the characteristics the chastened industry has been endeavouring to display.

Ten years after the crash, they hope they have now eaten sufficient humble pie and can tentatively raise the prospect of executive remuneration once again. That's bonuses to you and me.

But not the quick pay, cut and run money of the Tiger era, they protest. No, this time, reward will be tied to long-term performance – though they are curiously reluctant to go into any great detail.


And it is driven not by avarice, they argue, but by the need to retain talent, without whom they will not be able to properly serve customers.

AIB has been to the fore in this campaign. But on the very day that Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe was shutting down that course of action – for now at least – the Central Bank disclosed that AIB is still among the most recidivist of our banks.

Of 3,400 "new" cases requiring compensation in the ongoing Central Bank tracker mortgage examination, 1,800 relate to AIB – more than half. This is close to 2½ years after the tracker review began and brings the number of its clients cheated on their loans to 5,800.

And this from a bank that was smugly and almost publicly congratulating itself last year that it had put its house in order ahead of its peers. Back then, it admitted to only 3,200 cases. And when this newspaper suggested it was ignoring a whole tranche of customers whose position should be considered, it pooh-poohed the notion. On several occasions, and in writing, it said it had decided they did not meet the criteria for compensation.

In many cases the people making those decisions were the same executives – the talent – the bank now wants to reward with bonuses.

Substance or perception: whichever way you look at it, it’s clear AIB has much still to learn.