Jef Van Herck & Harmony: The ideal match

Jef Van Herck has a special quality. He has that remarkable Retail DNA. His intuition for retail and SME has been amply proven over the past 15 years. Among others in the market of Apple Premium Resellers and in the insurance business. Together with Harmony, Jef now has a joint international mission: helping retailers to solve the challenges of today and tomorrow. And there are many.

Who is Jef?
Van Herk: “A colleague once described me as: a positive, driven professional with a strong commercial mindset. I try to plan forward, always putting the customers interest first. In the end I just love retail, that’s how you can characterise me.”

What about that Retail DNA?
“Retail is in my blood. It was my first love and it always has been. I also enjoyed working in the insurance world of consumer electronics. Wherever I worked, I was always driven by the question: how do I create excellent service and an unforgettable premium customer experience? This is what I did as Managing Director at Switch. An Apple Premium Retail organisation, where I was Business Unit Director and worked hard on the Premium aspect in both Retail and Small Medium Business. In this role, I helped Switch through a difficult period. A great task. Now, I am ready for something new, something else that inspires me.”

Harmony has reinvented itself in recent years. Driven by a rapidly changing world, an Insurtech platform was developed and a cultural shift was made where innovation and market thinking are highly valued. New ambitions, which therefore also suit a new Head of International Business Development Europe.

Ronald, why is Jef a good match for Harmony?
Van Weelde: “I got to know Jef during his time at Switch. Besides being a real professional, he is, not unimportantly, also a nice guy. The great thing about Jef is that he has the same ambitions as Harmony: to strengthen the position of retailers with premium products and services. His huge network makes him the ideal Head of International Business Development Europe.

We see that our products are loved in Belgium and the Netherlands. Now we want to win over the whole of Europe. And especially the APRs. In the Netherlands, we are specialists in insuring consumer electronics and we are partners with all the APRs, among others. With Jef, Harmony is ready to conquer Europe.”

Some high expectations Jef!
“Yes, I realise that and I see it as a fantastic challenge. What I find unique about Harmony is the passion to deliver tailor-made solutions to retailers. Harmony presents itself as a real partner that helps retailers move forward. That really appeals to me.”

How has the Retail landscape changed, Jef?
“Retail has been completely turned upside down in recent years. It strikes me that common Retail has been replaced by detailed Retail. What I mean by that is that commercial details make the difference more than ever. In margins, traffic and average basket value. And of course, also in the customer life time value. Your contact with the customer is sacred. Just look at the APRs that really focus on premium expertise and experience. I would like to help them with that. My ambition: to devise custom-made solutions together with retailers in order to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.”

Ronald, why does the Harmony product fit so well with APRs?
“The Harmony product really adds something. It adds to the expertise of the APR. We are all about the APR and its customers. We use the APR’s strengths. Think of the premium service, expertise, repairs and experience, both online and in-store. In addition, all our processes and sales support are already fully aligned with the APRs and the Apple Eco System.”

Jef and Harmony: the ideal match?
Van Weelde: “Absolutely. We share the same ambitions. But we are different enough to strengthen each other.” Van Herck: “That produces the best ideas. Our customers will reap the benefits. Absolutely.”

Harmony, success guaranteed in retail

From house insurer for the BAS Group to fully independent provider: Harmony, acting on the cutting edge of the retail world and financial services, is growing.

From T for Telecom to own boss, Harmony once started as an insurer for T for Telecom. After that, the company was the house insurer of several retail organisations for a long time. Since 2016, Harmony has been completely independent for the first time in its existence. Led by CEO Ronald van Weelde, the electronics insurance company is increasingly taking over markets from other players.

But that did not happen by itself. When he took office in 2016, Van Weelde noted that almost all the certainties in the company had disappeared. With the demise of the BAS group, the main source of new insurance had dried up. It was time to change course.

Reinventing yourself

The new CEO did that with policy. Van Weelde: “We actually had to reinvent ourselves. But in a situation like that, you shouldn’t make too many hasty decisions, too quickly. First look at what you have and where you want to go. At that time, although the supply from the BAS group had stagnated, Harmony had a large, profitable portfolio. “That is a luxury position and a good foundation to build on.

Within our ranks, we had many good people who we were able to retain. Together with new people, with new insights and ideas, we started to improve Harmony. Our ultimate goal is to grow with satisfied customers. We achieve that with a structured and commercial organisation, with products that are the best in the market.”

The internal insurer that went commercial

Most of the work turned out to be in the complete rebuilding of the back office. A lot of attention was also paid to setting up a new sales department and implementing a cultural change.

Van Weelde: “It takes a lot of effort to turn an internal insurer into a commercial insurer. We have successfully completed that process. We are now ready for the future with a strong sales department. They know what it is like to introduce new partners and, more importantly, to support them in their sales. Led by Remco Zeedijk, this is a department that understands exactly what it is like on the floor”.

Retail deep in our DNA

Because Harmony has been part of various sales organisations for twenty years, retail is deeply anchored in its DNA. Van Weelde: “We tend not to think as an insurer, but as a retailer. We know exactly what happens on the floor. What retailers are doing. We know what their concerns are and what their goals are. With our products, we help to achieve them. “Harmony’s products therefore go beyond insurance. “The insurance is only part of what the retailer gets from Harmony, because insurance simply doesn’t sell itself. That is something the salespeople on the shop floor have to do. And it is precisely those salespeople that we help to be successful.”

Training and support of partners

Van Weelde: “First of all, we deliver excellent, customer-friendly insurances, with multiple USPs for the retailer and policyholder, on top of that we provide the retailer with the right knowledge to sell the insurance well.” Harmony therefore invests heavily in the training and support of its partners’ sales staff. “We even employ more people for this support and training than for our own sales. In addition, our whole process is paperless. We have simplified the insurance application process to the simplest level imaginable. Time is precious and should not be spent filling out forms.” For the repair process, Harmony relies on the expertise of the business partner.

Strengthening the bond with the end customer

An important aspect of Harmony’s approach is attention to customer retention. “It’s not just about selling, the insurance has to keep running,” says Van Weelde. “The insurance has to be good and the end customer satisfied. If we do not treat the policyholders well, they will complain in the stores. That is bad for us and for our partner. For the retailer, the insurance has to strengthen the bond with the end customer. We believe in the retailer as the central point, both in sales and in damage and repair.

Our sales coaches ensure that the end customer receives the right information about the product. That he chooses his insurance well-considered. We therefore hardly ever see end customers who terminate their insurance shortly after taking out the policy.”

Big ambitions

Harmony is now in good shape. The portfolio is growing and the insurer is now also active in Belgium. And that is only the beginning of its ambitions. Van Weelde: “We want to become the largest in The Netherlands. We are convinced of the unique quality of our product and the unique support we offer. Abroad, we want to grow with our existing products. First expand in Belgium and then further in Europe. In addition, Harmony sees new markets emerging. “Think of the leasing market for equipment and the growing demand from education. Employees and pupils increasingly need guaranteed access to the right equipment. With our partners, we can provide that guarantee.”