Barclays: Even the bad times are good
The most resonant measure of how well Barclays has performed is that the average pay and benefits of the 22,000 people who work for its investment bank, Barclays Capital, was almost exactly £100,000 for just the first six months of the year.
In other words, investment banking is booming again - with BarCap's profits doubling to more than £1bn, partly thanks to the frenzied attempts by big companies and governments to raise vast amounts of new money.
Across the group, Barclays income has soared 37% to £16.3bn, more than enough to absorb a rise in bad debts caused by the worst global recession since the 1930s.
Charges for loans going bad rose more than £2bn to £4.6bn - and there were £3.5bn of losses on investments, many of them related to the depressed property market in the US.
Because other banks have suffered more from the recklessness of their lending and investing, Barclays has been able to expand its share of the market.
But although Barclays managed to survive last autumn's banking crisis without a direct injection of capital by taxpayers, and it wasn't semi-nationalised like Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds, it has benefited from significant loans and guarantees from the public sector.
Barclays benefits from a promise by taxpayers that we won't ever let it fail, because the damage to the economy would be too great to contemplate if it did go down.
So perhaps the biggest risk for Barclays may well be that, when the better times return, it may well be perceived to have become too profitable on the back of taxpayer support.
And what's also likely is that pressure is likely to grow for some kind of separation between BarCap - the high-paying bit of Barclays that is perceived to be riskiest - and the retail bank that looks after the savings of millions.
UPDATE, 10:05: The story at HSBC, which has also reported first half results, is of resilience in the face of extraordinary losses on loans.
HSBC's charge for loans and investments that have gone bad was $13.9bn, almost $4bn higher than in the same period of 2008 (this UK-based global bank reports in dollars).
Much of that loss is - yet again - the consequence of bad lending by Household International, the US subprime lender bought by HSBC in 2003.
Since then, Household's poor-quality loans have generated tens of billions of dollars of losses for HSBC.
In fact, a calculation by Bloomberg shows that HSBC has incurred writedowns and credit-market losses of $42.2bn since the third quarter of 2007, the onset of the credit crunch.
That's more than double the disclosed charges for losses and investments that have gone bad at Barclays, for example.
But HSBC remains in profit, to the tune of $5bn before tax in the six months to June 30 - which is not a disaster, although it's less than half what it generated in the same period of 2008.
There was a fat $3.7bn loss in North America (of course), more than offset by $3bn of profit from Europe, $2.5bn of profit from Hong Kong, and $2bn of profit from the rest of Asia-Pacific.
Of all the big banks in the US and UK, HSBC is the one that comes closest to being able to claim - without stretching credibility too much - that it's a proper commercial operation, not too reliant on finance or insurance from taxpayers.