Gamifying financial literacy makes for a one-of-a-kind banking app

Vacuumlabs joins forces with to set children up for financial success

When wanted to teach children financial literacy, it turned to Vacuumlabs to lead the project from ideation to development. Through workshops, testing, and multiple iterations, the Smartie app was born, which uses gamification to help teach youth how to save and spend money.

85% of young users would
recommend the product

90% of parents would
recommend the product

Since 2017, has been providing financial services throughout Slovakia both digitally and in person. “We are a human-centered, modern bank that puts people before numbers,” says Tomáš Barbarič, head of products at “We want to empower people to think less about money,but still manage their finances better.” had the goal of attracting more families with children. Part of its vision was to carry out a corporate social responsibility project that would help raise financial literacy among children. However, building a financial product for this purpose required more IT development capacity than it had available in-house, so the bank looked for outside help on the product development and design. “We needed experts in the technology field, a cross-functional team that had experience with developing such products from ideation to launch,” says Barbarič.

Putting the pieces together then decided to work with Vacuumlabs based on the recommendation by its daughter organization SKPAY. Upon understanding the vision of the bank, Vacuumlabs started conducting workshops to figure out what was possible. “The team at Vacuumlabs led the ideation phase of the product and came up with the structure for gamification and various options,” recalls Martin Ondercin, the Product Manager at Vacuumlabs who was also the Business Owner of the product for during the implementation.

After narrowing down the scope and building a minimum viable product, Vacuumlabs verified the value of gamification through beta testing and user feedback. “The Vacuumlabs team led the user experience and interaction design and relied on the bank’s color palette for the new mockups. Meanwhile, finalized the content internally and verified the app’s features for children with a psychologist,” adds Ondercin. Finally, with a full team of DevOps, backend and frontend engineers and a product manager, Vacuumlabs built the app based on an existing codebase written for SKPAY,saving time and money.

In the beginning we discussed how to connect financial literacy
with the product in a children friendly way. Vacuumlabs was very helpful
in the ideation and product discovery phase.

Tomáš Barbarič

Head of Products at

Instilling financial literacy

As a result, the Smartie app was born—the first standalone mobile banking app for kids (8-15 years old) which they could use independently to develop their financial literacy using quizzes, tasks assigned by parents, rewards, and a digital piggy bank. “We wanted to make sure we made an attractive app for children. That’s why we have gamification features such as financial quizzes and use lots of colorful graphics to make the app fun and playful,” says Tomáš Barbarič. “Thankfully, the children enjoy using Smartie. After launching the app, we conducted several surveys and found out that 85% of Smartie’s young users would recommend the product to their peers, while 90% of parents would recommend the app to their friends.”

The Smartie app has made waves in Slovakia as well. “The product had a huge impact not only on the banking industry, but also on the entire nation,” says Ondercin. “It kickstarted a discussion about financial literacy and received a lot of media attention. was even awarded the Bank of the Year title by The Banker magazine, which is a renowned publication of international financial affairs.”

What makes Smartie such a well-loved app is because it was built on a strong foundation of expertise and research.“ Part of why the app has been so successful is because of the time and effort Vacuumlabs invested in our journey. Their team came up with useful features and suggestions and actively participated in the workshops and automated market research to figure out how to make the product more attractive,” says Barbarič.“

Key integrations

Prepaid card and payment wristband

Standalone banking application with gamification

Emphasis on developing financial literacy for juniors

Constant iteration

I greatly appreciated the attitude of the Vacuumlabs team. They were not
just waiting to receive requirements from our bank but took the initiative
to understand what the market needed.

Tomáš Barbarič

Head of Products at

Moving forward, will continue to communicate Smartie to the mass market segment in order to improve children’s financial skills and to bring even more positive impact to its young users. “Teaching children about today’s realities in the world of finance is one of the best ways to help them get ready for adult life,” adds Tomáš Barbarič. “Without a working knowledge of the financial world, it is extremely difficult to do well in life, and we are determined to bridge that gap.”

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