BANK customers can now choose any time of the day - or night - to do their banking business. Around-the-clock services are rapidly increasing because of new telephone services and '24-hour' banking centres. The banks claim that if more customers take advantage of these electronic services then bank branches could change radically in the next few years and queuing could be almost eliminated. Most simple, frequent banking transactions can now be done by machine. Transfers between accounts, payments to utility or credit card companies, balance checks, statement requests and chequebook orders can be made through automatic teller machines (ATMs) and phone banking services. Hongkong Bank and Hang Seng Bank have recently set up 24-hour banking centres containing all the different types of machine in use. All transactions which can be executed by machine - such as withdrawals, deposits, transfers, balance inquiries and passbook updates - are available. The second pilot Hongkong Bank branch with an automated centre opened last week. The branch is unusual in that all cash transactions must be performed by machine. A counter is open during working hours with three members of staff. Dicky Yip, senior executive of retail sales at Hongkong Bank, said: 'They assist customers with non-cash related services; credit card applications, for example.' Mr Yip said initially customers received instructions in the use of the machines. The bank was considering sending staff to facilities and places where elderly people met to run training sessions. 'Overall the response has been positive. The purpose is to follow through our thinking that for simple transactions the long-term strategy is to have longer service hours.' Both of Hang Seng Bank's newest branches - at the Convention Centre in Wan Chai, opened last August, and Ma On Shan, opened last month - have fully automated sections. These areas have quick deposit and passbook update machines as well as ATMs and cash balance machines. All ETC card-holders can use the Hongkong Bank and Hang Seng Bank ATMs. The deposit and passbook update machines can only be used by each bank's own customers. Instant deposit machines, introduced earlier this year, credit the account immediately, whereas ATM deposit envelopes are processed manually. Increased automation is not a short-term, cost-cutting exercise. Mr Yip said each ATM cost between $200,000 and $250,000. With the cost of other machines, a 24-hour centre could cost $1 million in technology alone. Another centre is planned this year, with five to six more planned for next year.