CAPITEC's decision to extend banking hours throughout the weekend is forcing larger rivals that have been experimenting with the idea to also adopt it as a permanent arrangement.

Nedbank said yesterday that a pilot initiative started in November had proved there was merit in extending hours to Sunday.

Nedbank's managing executive in charge of its branch network, Dave Schwegmann, announced that it would increase the number of branches open for trading on a Sunday between 10am and 2pm from 12 to 33.

The bank's decision could see all the big banks increasing the number of branches that open throughout the weekend.

The rationale is to catch the foot traffic that visits malls at weekends, and also to provide convenience to those who cannot visit the bank during the week.

Capitec has 84 branches that open throughout the weekend out of its more than 450 branches.

The bank plans to add more as demand increases.

Nedbank had been piloting Sunday trading at 59 branches since last November. "The Sunday trading is in response to the overwhelming feedback from our clients to the Nedbank extended banking hours pilot," said Mr Schwegmann. Trade unions had been supportive, he said.

Analysts say competition for customers is forcing banks to innovate not only with trading hours, but also reaching their market cheaply.

This is giving rise to the development of delivery channels such as mobile banking, where First National Bank is the market leader with more than 3-million registered users.

Mr Schwegmann said banks had to be innovative or risk being left behind by rivals.