HSBC's eagerly anticipated seven-day banking, which starts next week, will actually represent a drop in overall weekend banking services. Fifty branches will stay open next Saturday from 9am to 4.30pm while 10 branches will be open next Sunday to offer financial planning services from 12.30pm to 4.30pm. At present, 114 branches are open on Saturday mornings. But a spokesman insisted the changes represented an extension of 'operating hours' despite the closure of more than half the branches on Saturday mornings. HSBC will also begin implementing a five-day work week, hiring an extra 400 staff. Paul Thurston, general manager for personal financial services, said the new arrangements would strike a balance between the needs of customers and employees. 'We are committed to improving our services by extending our branch opening hours. We are also committed to the well-being of our staff to enhance their work-life balance,' Mr Thurston said. But the plan differs from the original plan proposed in July under which its 114 branches would open on Saturday morning, while 50 would remain open in the afternoon. Last month the Hong Kong Bank Employees' Association sent a letter to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen expressing concerns that weekend shifts would cut into their family time. At the same time, several leading banks voiced concerns that weekend counter services would disadvantage banks that chose to close at the weekend. But Diana Cesar, head of deposits, mortgages and special projects, denied the changes were made to pacify staff or the industry, saying it was merely the result of market research.