The institution he has headed for 17 months is still dealing with a legacy of irresponsible lending and the selling of dodgy products.
This will take years to resolve and Mr Horta-Osorio bemoans the fact that half the complaints Lloyds deals with date back to the last century.
But there are also signs that he has a clear sense of where the bank is headed.
He characterises the pure retail banks as disciplined armies against the implicitly more gung-ho commandos of the investment banks.
This is a neat differentiator given that his key rivals – Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC and Barclays – have investment banking arms.
He is now seeking to drive home this advantage by beginning to the implement the ringfence separating retail and investment banking demanded by the Independent Commission on Banking earlier than the 2019 deadline.
"By doing that we will return the bank to profitability and that will ultimately give taxpayers the opportunity to get their money back," he said, in words that will resound pleasingly in the empty vaults of the Treasury.
It is easy to characterise him as yet another chief executive with a sharp knife, but Mr Horta-Osorio maintains that cuts free up cash to improve the business and bring managers close to customers.
Complaints are falling, he said. The bank has taken on more long-term funding.
However, achieving progress in a recession is not easy.
Mr Horta-Osorio doesn't believe the economy is as bad as official figures suggest. Whether he is correct could determine how successful he is going to be.