AIB to offer 33,000 struggling homeowners a deal on debt
AIB will contact all 33,000 mortgage holders who are in arrears by the summer with a view to having a deal worked out with them by the end of the year, the bank's head has promised.
CEO David Duffy said he was confident that they would be able to work out a deal with all willing customers and bring an end to mortgage misery for thousands of families across the country.
Speaking in Galway, where he is conducting a series of meetings with staff and customers, Mr Duffy did not rule out write-downs in some cases.
His comments came as the Government and the Central Bank are discussing moves to force the banks to tackle mortgage arrears.
But the discussions come amid claims that squeezed homeowners are being forced to go into arrears on their mortgages to get the banks to do a deal with them.
Families that have lost their income are unable to get the banks to engage with them unless they fall behind on payments, some experts claim.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan are understood to be frustrated at the banks' failure to deal with the arrears problem.
The failure is seen as a big impediment to the country's recovery and to economic growth.
But Mr Duffy said the primary target of his bank was to return to profitability by 2014.
"We have set up a programme whereby we would look to have discussed the restructuring with every single arrears customer by the summer. We would look to have closed out on most of those restructurings by the end of the year."
And the AIB chief maintained that the bank was increasing the amount lent each year.
He said that last year AIB achieved "€1.5bn of lending into the mortgage space versus our original target that we had set ourselves of €1bn".
Meanwhile, it emerged that some brokers were advising people to go into arrears deliberately in order to get a deal on their mortgage.
A Central Bank conference was told last week that the lack of repossessions and the protections from the mortgage arrears code were pushing people to stop paying.
And David Hall, of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, a group that represents distressed borrowers, said banks still had no process in place to deal with people who were just about to default.
A spokesman for the Irish Banking Federation denied that banks were reluctant to deal with stressed homeowners.
But broker Karl Deeter said that, in practice, banks were only offering short-term deals, such as interest-only or payment holidays, to those already in arrears.