What runs through the minds of banking bosses who decide to squeeze £46 million out of their low-paid workers after announcing annual profits of £13.7 billion?
In a word, it's profit. In three words, it's maximisation of profit.
Staff are regarded as numbers on a balance sheet rather than human beings with needs and responsibilities.
So while HSBC chief executive Stuart Gulliver took home in excess of £9.3m in 2012 and 204 senior staff were each paid over £1m for their efforts, the poor bloody banking infantry face closure of their final salary pension scheme.
They will also suffer reduced sick pay while two days will be docked from their annual leave entitlement.
As Unite national officer Dominic Hook says, "The savings the bank is making from these changes are a drop in the ocean compared to its profits and the bonuses being awarded.
"HSBC can easily afford to provide decent pensions to all its staff."
So it can, as can all the banking transnational corporations that register huge profits while treating their staff, many of whom are paid a pittance, without normal care and decency.
Financial commentators who eulogise the banks and their buccaneering managers in the media note that HSBC makes 90 per cent of its profits overseas and may not actually regard itself as a British enterprise.
That could well be their collective opinion while profits, dividends and bonuses are in full flow and there is talk in the European Union of capping boardroom bonuses.
But were HSBC to find itself in a similar position to RBS or Lloyds, the begging bowl would be extended to the British government with little ado.
The extravagantly rewarded chief executive notes "significant progress in 2012" for HSBC, including an increase in underlying profits, ignoring one-off elements, of 18 per cent.
Such success could have made it possible for HSBC employees in Britain to continue to enjoy their final salary pension scheme, their full holiday entitlement and their current sick pay arrangements, but this would assume a level of humanity and common decency that is alien to those who run banks.
If anyone were to doubt for a moment top bankers' single-minded dedication to maximisation of profit, a quick glance at the reasons for some of the one-off deductions to revenue would be instructive.
HSBC had to pay a record settlement of $1.9bn (£1.2bn) to US regulators in December 2012 to extricate itself from a money-laundering racket, involving Mexican drug-traffickers and other allegations.
It has also had to set aside £1.5bn to cover liabilities incurred through mis-selling payment protection insurance packages in Britain.
The total set-aside for the big four British banks is £12.8bn, which shows HSBC as least implicated but the entire banking industry as up to their necks together in this criminal behaviour.
Any other industry so enmeshed in conspiracies to defraud its own customers could have seen the principals sent to jail, but banks are different.
They pay fines to regulators, shuffle the top table, apologise most sincerely for any inconvenience caused and return to their core function of racking up obscenely high profits.
The finance industry, which buys itself influence with all mainstream political parties, will continue to act as it does until its capacity to avoid criminal law and effective taxation through tax avoidance havens is impeded by government intervention.
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