The Harmoney modular digital compliance platform recently celebrated its 5th anniversary, prompting reflections from its founders. Discover the adventurous path of building a thriving fintech company from scratch, the challenges they've conquered, and the innovations that have shaped the company.
Where lies the origin of Harmoney?
Thomas: The inspiration to start the company arose from challenges in the financial industry, especially in wealth management. Being a partner in a wealth management firm, I noticed how administrative tasks negatively affected client relationships. Simultaneously, regulatory changes were adding complexity to the financial industry. The goal was to leverage on technology in order to enhance client relationships by reducing administrative burdens and simultaneously be more in control of compliance risks.
Wouter: I met Thomas in 2016 when watching a soccer game together and I was immediately inspired by Thomas's commitment to digitize and simplify the regulatory complexity in the financial industry. We quickly shared a vision of a scalable, frictionless onboarding process for investors that could adapt to ongoing regulatory changes. It subsequently took us two years to build the first version of the platform.
Which were the biggest challenges?
Thomas: Starting from scratch presented various obstacles, but our prior experiences brought valuable expertise to the table. From the outset, we prioritized domain expertise over technology.
Regulatory obligations acted as catalysts for change and innovation within institutions, offering opportunities to streamline processes. Basically, the biggest challenges that we faced was to convince people that Harmoney can really bring efficiency in the processes. In order to build references, we co-created a first digital solution with our early customers allowing them to align with regulatory deadlines such as MiFID II in 2018.
It goes without saying that we are still grateful for the trust we experienced from our first customers.
Wouter: Indeed, convincing the first customers with a limited offering wasn’t a piece of cake. On the other hand, having started with a focus on Wealth Management, we rapidly discovered comparable needs within the insurance industry. Luckily, we connected with players in the industry who were looking to embrace future-proof technology to build efficiency and improve the customer experience.
Thomas: This emphasizes that finding the right product-market fit is crucial for any start-up company. In the early stages, one builds on a general direction, but true clarity on where to go with a product is market and customer driven.
"This emphasizes that finding the right product-market fit is crucial for any start-up company. In the early stages, one builds on a general direction, but true clarity on where to go with a product is market and customer driven."
How did the changing regulatory requirements impact the Harmoney solution?
Thomas: The regulatory landscape has been continuously evolving, and I expect that this trend will continue in the years to come.
Under Wouter’s leadership, we established a solid technological foundation for the product. At the same time, flexibility is paramount and that is why we began creating modular solutions tailored to specific regulatory challenges within processes, also catering for regional differences. Our domain knowledge grew alongside our clients, and our product gradually evolved to accommodate for these changes.
Wouter: This reminds me of the discussions we had in the early days, back in 2016, working in an attic. The choice of technologies was of paramount importance, as in the financial industry you need to build on robust technology on the one hand, while on the other hand we wanted to embrace the latest web technologies for the user interface. We therefore made the dual decision to combine the solid Java backend technology with the more recent Angular front-end framework, delivering a smooth user and customer experience. With a solid architecture, embracing microservices and containerization, we were able to easily extend it with Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence technology.
Thomas: From a technological perspective, we are convinced that we do not need to act as a first mover but rather as a smart follower.
How has the client feedback been up until now?
Thomas: The gratifying feedback we often get, is that we are seen as more than just a technology vendor. Our clients recognize us as a solution provider who not only delivers technology but also brings solutions to their challenges. This insight has guided our development and business strategy to ensure that we continue to provide solutions that address our clients' needs.
What about the future?
Thomas: We also maintain our commitment to end-to-end frictionless processes, where end-clients have control over their data while enjoying a smooth and hassle-free experience across various services.
Wouter: Harmoney will continue to show leadership in delivering compliance efficiency through innovative solutions, including workflow optimization, low-code templating and AI.
"Harmoney will continue to show leadership in delivering compliance efficiency through innovative solutions, including workflow optimization, low-code templating and AI."