Several haematological malignancies, including multiple myeloma (MM) and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), have well-defined precursor states that precede the development of overt cancer. MM is almost always preceded by monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), and at least a quarter of all patients with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) have disease that evolves into AML. In turn, MDS are frequently anteceded by clonal haematopoiesis of indeterminate potential (CHIP). The acquisition of additional genetic and epigenetic alterations over time clearly influences the increasingly unstable and aggressive behaviour of neoplastic haematopoietic clones; however, perturbations in the bone-marrow microenvironment are increasingly recognized to have key roles in initiating and supporting oncogenesis. In this Review, we focus on the concept that the haematopoietic neoplasia-microenvironment relationship is an intimate rapport between two partners, provide an overview of the evidence supporting a role for the bone-marrow niche in promoting neoplasia, and discuss the potential for niche-specific therapeutic targets.