Reports suggest HSBC could seek to cut an additional 8,000-10,000 jobs from its headcount of 238,000
(a spokesperson declined to confirm the number of jobs to go).
Yet after years of cost-cutting, analysts are divided as to whether much more fat can be trimmed.
Daniel Tabbush of Tabbush Report, an Asia-based research firm, says HSBC "is not particularly bloated".
The bank may also partially exit some share-trading activities in Western markets, and wants to sell its French retail operations.
But a hasty disposal of badly performing units, which also include its American wholesale arm,
may force it to write down part of their value.
So hopes must be placed in the second prong of HSBC's grand reform—
to move capital away from the dreariest businesses and towards "higher growth and return opportunities".
HSBC's cost-to-income ratio is 104% in Europe, compared with 43% in Asia, where it generates nearly 90% of its profits.
It makes only a quarter of its lending in Britain, yet the country generates 35% of its non-performing loans, says Mr Tabbush.
Its $98bn of risk-weighted assets allocated to America produce only $527m in annual profit.
The bank's management has so far declined to provide any guidance as to where newly released capital might be sent.
HSBC is already the largest corporate lender in Asia by market penetration, according to Greenwich Associates, a research firm.
And getting more deeply into China may prove tricky.
Other dynamic markets, like Vietnam and Indonesia, are tiny by comparison.
There are also limits to how much HSBC can rejig its various lines of business.
Its strength in trade finance has so far failed to translate into clout in investment banking.
Global capital markets are more lucrative, but volatile. In 2018 HSBC launched a new motto, "Together We Thrive".
Its difficulties may have more to do with this grand ambition than with external forces.
By trying to do too much for too many people in too many places, it has seen its returns diluted.
Yet even for its candid interim boss, that conclusion may be rather too blunt.