JLife’s Evangeline Spachis found out more about Ben Ziff, recent UKIB Breakfast meeting speaker and managing director of CitiPark.
CitiPark, owned by Town Centre Securities PLC
Can you tell us more about your background and your recent trip to Israel?
I run two entities within the parent group of TCS. One is CitiPark, the car park business and TCS Energy. CitiPark runs the official car park for the first direct arena and the parking industry is the middle of being disrupted by new technology, which was one of the primary reasons for my trip.
The other reason was to investigate what is going on in the energy sector and we have a very tightly-knitted synergy between parking and energy, which is down to electric vehicles (EVs) and autonomous cars, and those two things are going to be intrinsically linked when it comes to working in parking and energy.
What makes Israel such a key focus for TCS?
The reason we started to target Israel is because it is leading the way in cutting-edge technology for those sectors. There’s a computer company called Mobileye and it’s a business that has been valued at $100 billion. It makes things like the ultrasound sensors for the reversing aids for vehicles and have gone onto make the autonomous systems that have allowed cars to park independently at the touch of a button. This Israeli company is the brains behind the big car manufacturers such as BMW, Mercedes Benz or Tesla, all of which have bought Mobileye automotive technology.
All of this contributes to making sure that whatever we are doing parking-wise, we can integrate, develop and take the business forward with the technology which is appearing in the market.
How has business in Leeds been for you?
Last year, the Merrion Centre saw record visitor numbers, just shy of 12 million people through the door. The Arena Quarter investment we have made in the shopping development which faces the first direct arena has got a number of new developments, such as the ibis Styles Hotel development and a new Marco Pierre White restaurant and other tenants like Bengal Brasserie and The Dockyard pub. More will be announced in the coming months.
What innovations is CitiPark utilising at the moment?
We did a deal in early 2016 with Tesla to roll out their destination charging network to all our branches nationwide. We have installed three destination chargers in every car park, one of which is for Tesla vehicles only and two of which are for anyone with an EV.
We’re about three years into putting all this into practice and all of our 16 UK-wide branches are equipped with this technology. Though we have very big competitors like NCP and Q-Park, they will take a lot longer to catch up due to being much bigger businesses and these things inevitably take time.
Apart from the ecological benefits, what do EV users benefit from by using CitiPark?
Something that current EV users appreciate is that we do not charge a subscription fee to use CitiPark charging points. Companies like POD Point, Chargemaster, Ecotricity, all charge you every month to be a member of their scheme, but instead we are an open source that anybody can use to plug in, recharge and drive away. With us, the rate of pay depends on the time of day they are choosing to charge the vehicle.
What are your personal ambitions within the company?
One of my personal goals is to make sure that whatever we do is using a holistic approach and will benefit society. Not tying customers into a charger subscription is a good example of this.
In terms of my overall ambitions, in the next five years, I’d like to double the size of our company by expanding the car parking business into Ireland and the rest of the UK. In terms of the energy division, we are doing a lot of work in grid alleviation.
Fast facts with… Ben Ziff
What did you want to be when you were younger?
Car park attendant, collecting the cash on the spot!
What is the coolest thing you’ve ever done?
I’ve done a zero-gravity experience in a plane doing parabolic curves. One of my objectives is that I go to space one day.
What are you most proud of in your career?
My wife. She is the foundation of my career and through good, the bad and the difficult.
What was the last film you watched?
It was called ‘Lion’. It’s about a young boy who gets lost in India. Fantastic and very moving.
Who is your hero?
What do you like to listen to?
My favourite bands are Bring Me The Horizon and Enter Shikari.
What do you do to relax?
I weight train, run and I ski.