AIB has been in 'quasi-administration' under a team of consultants from PricewaterhouseCoopers since new executive chairman David Hodgkinson was app­ointed to oversee the ailing bank in late October, according to several sources.

Steven Pearson, a partner at PwC London who served as joint administrator to Enron's European businesses and Lehman Brothers UK arm, is acting as de-facto chief executive and running AIB's day-to-day operations, said a senior banking source with direct knowledge of the matter. The source said the arrangement was a "quasi-administration" similar to how Quinn Insurance was being run by its administrators.

Pearson has brought with him a group of PwC consultants to support his decision-making, which includes making key appointments in the bank, according to a Department of Finance spokesman.

AIB sources confirmed a large team of PwC personnel, including Pearson, had been working in the bank for weeks.

It is understood the PwC presence is larger and more involved than the three consultants originally appointed in early October to help the bank's management transition after the resignations of former chairman Dan O'Connor and former chief executive Colm Doherty.

One source said staff were "falling over PwC people with English accents".

Hodgkinson, a former chief operating officer with HSBC, is on the advisory board of PWC, which has been helping the government and the NTMA throughout the banking crisis.

Meanwhile, dozens of AIB managers will be leaving by the end of the year on actuarially-adjusted retirement packages, it has been confirmed. Up to 40 second- and third-tier managers applied for early retirement last month.

It is understood some top-line executives may be leaving under the programme, described by one banking source as an "exodus of talent". It is understood the managers, most of whom were approaching retirement, wanted to avoid higher post-budget taxes on their pension lump sums.

The move comes as the bank prepares for a radical downsizing in 2011, which is expected to include significant redundancies. In a memo distributed to staff last week, Hodgkinson said AIB would announce its restructuring plan by the end of the first quarter. He said the smaller bank would need fewer people than are now employed, but did not give a precise figure. A redundancy plan is expected with the restructuring announcement.

AIB is selling its Polish subsidiary, BZWBK, which will significantly reduce its headcount. The bank is also under pressure to reduce its assets under the EU/IMF rescue plan.