The UK’s Top Ten Business Game Changers: Jonny Combe of PayByPhone



Thirty-four-year-old Jonny Combe is the UK CEO of global mobile parking payment provider PayByPhone. In November 2018, he was brought in from BMW Group where he spent 13 years, to lead PayByPhone through a phase of rapid expansion. Under his leadership, the company is growing quickly, with environmental sustainability a key focus.


At BMW Group, Combe spent over a decade in various management roles, most recently as General Manager for Environment, Real Estate, Mobility and Innovation in EMEA. Combe spearheaded the Digital and Innovation Programmes in the UK and pioneered the birth of the award-winning BMW Innovation Lab and The Intrapreneur Lab.


Nominees three achievements


1) Rapid strategic growth for PayByPhone UK in a short period of time.


PayByPhone is one of the fastest growing mobile parking payment providers in the world. Since becoming the UK CEO of PayByPhone, a wholly owned subsidiary of Volkswagen Financial Services, in November 2018, Jonny Combe and his team have grown the business dramatically. Under Combe’s leadership the business is quickly establishing itself as a UK market leader thanks to aggressive growth initiatives, acquisitions and a surge of contract wins supported by the company’s innovative and environmentally friendly initiative, Meters for Trees.


PayByPhone’s UK transactions have increased by an impressive 47% since last year. The PayByPhone team has also grown in the past 12 months, increasing by 10 employees from 21 to 31. By the end of next year, the company is aiming to employ 43 people.


PayByPhone’s rapidly expanding client-base in the UK includes NHS hospitals and partnerships with the likes of NCP and Transport for London (TfL). An increasing number of local authorities are also opting to provide cashless parking payment services in their borough and choosing to partner with PayByPhone to roll this out. On average, in every month of 2019, a new local authority signed up to PayByPhone’s service.


The appeal to UK councils is obvious. They’re looking for the best solution for motorists as part of their digital transformation journey. PayByPhone’s services, in particular its app that has been developed with a user-first ethos, help to make the transition from traditional parking machines to cashless payments as smooth as possible.


Cashless parking payment technology is easy to install on the back-end for local authorities and supports them in their efforts to reduce crime and to improve air quality in their boroughs.


On the acquisitions front, PayByPhone acquired Connect Cashless Parking in early 2019, further solidifying PayByPhone’s position as a dominant force in the UK market. The acquisition is another crucial building block of PayByPhone’s off-street parking strategy and follows on from the exclusive NCP partnership secured earlier in 2019.


Ultimately, Combe and his team’s primary focus is to achieve ubiquitous coverage across the UK. He wants to make sure that wherever a person is, they are never too far away from a PayByPhone parking location.


As the company evolves, Combe believes that PayByPhone will go beyond parking solutions, bringing lots of different types of journeys under one umbrella and enabling people pay for them in an easy and simple way.


2) Ensuring PayByPhone UK’s growth was driven by a business strategy firmly underpinned by green thinking.


Combe’s leadership philosophy is about creating a high performing culture where the C-suite leads by example. When appointed, he was keen to identify a strategy that would support the company’s rapid growth while at the same time demonstrate the green thinking in its business model.


Combe and his management team first set out to improve PayByPhone’s own environmental credentials by developing a genuine, thoughtful and authentic business ethos where sustainability and caring for the environment are central to everything they do.


This involved the assessment of PayByPhone UK’s own carbon footprint via a rigorous process with an internationally recognised organisation. Following the process in Spring 2019, PayByPhone achieved Carbon Neutral status.


Seeing how straightforward achieving Carbon Neutral status could be, Combe and his management team struck on the idea that they could help their clients work towards their own green goals. This inspired PayByPhone to develop Meters for Trees, the first carbon reduction programme of its kind in the UK and the company’s long-term environmental initiative. It is the cornerstone of PayByPhone’s green thinking but, more importantly, it benefits the environment.


Meters for Trees is a simple and cost-effective solution to help UK councils combat pollution at a time when many are declaring environmental emergencies and facing huge challenges in reducing their carbon footprint.


The ground-breaking programme is based on a very simple principle: replacing parking machines with trees. In other words, putting technology to use in order to benefit the environment. Councils sign up to Meters for Trees by committing to remove their parking meters over a period of time and going cashless with PayByPhone.


Cashless parking payment technology improves air quality by removing the need for enforcement and maintenance vehicles, which would otherwise be on the roads, clocking up miles, collecting cash from parking machines and maintaining them, releasing harmful carbon dioxide emissions.


For councils who sign up to Meters for Trees, PayByPhone commits to offset roughly one tonne of carbon dioxide for every ten parking machines that exist in a borough, by donating one tree to the council and by saving one tonne of carbon dioxide through the Portel-Pará REDD project, a Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) audited project in the Amazon rainforest that combats deforestation.


Meters for Trees has been highly successful so far, helping local authorities to reduce their carbon footprint significantly.


Kensington & Chelsea Council, the first local authority to enrol in Meters for Trees in summer 2019, has already removed 700 parking machines, which equates to 70 tonnes of carbon being offset in the Portel-Pará REDD project in the Amazon. But this isn’t the only positive impact: by taking its parking machines out of service, cash collection and machine maintenance vehicles that were previously driving 23,000 miles every year, belching out tail pipe emissions and contributing to air pollution, have been taken off the road.


Beyond carbon emissions reduction, Kensington & Chelsea estimated that it will save £120,000 annually by removing the threat of theft from and vandalism of traditional parking machines.


3) Supporting innovation within big businesses.


A key priority to Combe is leading by example: he wants to show other business leaders it is possible to deliver success through innovation while having a positive impact on the world.


Combe is particularly passionate about supporting employees within companies who are driving innovative market opportunities and who are also creating positive change for society. These so-called intrapreneurs are employees who promote innovative product development, services and marketing while, at the same time, exhibit a genuine social conscience.


In terms of driving the ambition of other budding intrapreneurs, Combe is actively involved in supporting the work of TIL ventures, an intrapreneurial accelerator for large companies to develop products and services that are innovative, profitable and have a wider benefit to society. This involves engagement with cohorts of passionate innovators from big businesses who want to drive change within their own organisations.


Combe himself is a great example of an intrapreneur. Meters for Trees was a bold decision from Combe and his management team. In order for it to be successful, it had to be authentic, so PayByPhone, and its clients, could create a credible environmental conscience that delivered the right results. To create the initiative required a real commitment because it drove change throughout the entire company – a challenge that PayByPhone thoroughly embraced across its UK business.


The success Meters for Trees has achieved so far, despite its infancy, and the prospective success the future holds for it, has cemented Combe’s belief that green thinking must be part of everyday business decisions.
This green thinking demonstrates not only how environmentally conscious and committed PayByPhone is, but also that it is led by an ethically responsible and focused UK CEO, who can create innovations that have a positive impact in society while still satisfying its stakeholders.


Combe believes everyone needs to be doing a lot more to support social intrapreneurship as it is going to have the most positive, and powerful, impact in creating change. It’s not just about having an idea that generates revenue for a business while also doing something good for society; it’s about bringing the rest of the business on board and developing services or products that ensure the idea becomes a reality and remains a successful and effective change for the business in the long term.





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