BankAmerica Corp. said it is cutting back on the hours at many of its California branches.

In the efficiency move, doors will close an hour earlier at about half of the bank's 1,000 branches in the state. Also, a "handful" of locations will no longer be open on Saturdays, according to BankAmerica spokesman Harvey Radin.

Mr. Radin said he was unable to provide details about which branches would be affected when the changes take effect this month.

"At some locations, especially branches in downtown areas, activity pretty much tapers off in the late afternoons and Saturdays," he said. "This is an adjustment; it's something we're constantly looking at very closely."

The changes will include an earlier deadline for same-day posting of deposits at automated teller machines. In most cases, that means a check will have to be deposited by 5 p.m. rather than 6 p.m. to be credited the same day.

In at least two locations in San Francisco, BankAmerica has extended branch hours to accommodate customer demand. At those branches on Union Street and in the Mission District, Saturday operations have been extended two hours, until 4 p.m.

But industrywide, increasing branch hours is an exception, observers said. Brick-and-mortar locations are declining in popularity as banks expand their alternative methods of delivery, including ATMs and on-line banking.

"Banks are seeing reduced branch visitor counts because of their investments in technology," said James R. Bradshaw, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities, Portland, Ore. "With all these other delivery channels customers have as an adjunct to branch banking, it makes sense for banks to begin saving money by cutting back on branch operating costs."

The decision to curtail hours was made by local California management and had nothing to do with the recent merger of BankAmerica and NationsBank Corp., Mr. Radin said.

There has been concern in California that BankAmerica would be paying less attention to it after last September's merger. Corporate headquarters moved from San Francisco to Charlotte, N.C., the hometown of merger partner NationsBank Corp.

A recent West Coast visit by BankAmerica chairman and chief executive officer Hugh L. McColl Jr. appears to have improved relations between the bank and San Francisco. However, some observers said that cutting branch hours might upset customers already sensitized by the headquarters move.

"I understand the need to realize efficiencies, but at least during the integration period BankAmerica ought to be very careful not to give people reasons to go somewhere else," said Joseph K. Morford, an analyst with First Security Van Kasper, San Francisco.

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