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For Global Relay, Occupying Gastown’s Biggest Office Space Is Only the Beginning

SONY DSC Global Relay, a software-as-a-service email archiving firm, has just signed the largest office lease renewal in the history of Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood, at 220 Cambie Street. The lease was brokered in partnership with Colliers International and Talia Jevan Properties.

In 2005, Global Relay rented 2,500 square feet in the building. They now occupy 62,000 square feet.

“Global Relay’s business growth would not have been possible had it not been for a real partnership approach with our landlord, Harmel Rayat at Talia Jevan Properties,” said Kelvin Ng of Global Relay.  “Harmel has worked alongside us to ensure our business has had a place to grow when we have needed it. He has accommodated our progress in the building over ten times in nine years. There are very few landlords that would take such a proactive partnership approach and we’re very grateful for that.”

The Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix bike race has become as much a fixture event as the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, further deepening the company’s ties to the neighbourhood.

Global Relay’s fortunes rose after the tightening of U.S. financial regulations in the wake of the collapse of Enron in 2001. At the time, the company was only two years old, but perfectly positioned to provide a product that would satisfy the demands of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) which demanded that companies operating in the financial sector be required to archive every scrap of email and other forms of electronic communication.

Their first customers were primarily small brokers, but they signed up both the Chicago Stock Exchange and a division of General Electric when both companies were scrambling for solutions to the new regulatory environment and ended up clicking on a 25-cent per click banner ad that Global Relay had purchased in 2004.

Global Relay’s fortune rose yet further after the 2008 financial crisis, amid further cries to regulate and monitor the industry.

Their customers now include almost half of FINRA registered broker-dealers, 70% of hedge funds registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and 22 of 25 of the world’s largest banks.

The company today has over 18,000 customers in 90 countries. Though headquartered in Gastown, Global Relay has offices in New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Chicago and London.

Global Relay built a $24 million zero carbon footprint data processing centre last year in North Vancouver, where its clients’ archived communications are stored.

“Global Relay is one of Vancouver’s biggest success stories and their space has allowed them a competitive advantage over others looking to hire locally,” says Colin Scarlett, senior vice president of Colliers International, who facilitated the renewal acting on behalf of Global Relay. “With an amazing rooftop patio looking out over downtown Vancouver and the North Shore mountains, high ceilings, quintessential brick and timber beams and the best in-house chef in the city making hot meals for the staff, their culture and ability to recruit/retain talent is unmatched in Vancouver. It’s time we recognized that it’s not just the US companies who are making noise in Vancouver.”

Later this year, Global Relay will be launching a product that has been five years in the making, their own instant messaging service called Global Relay Messaging, which will allow their financial services customers to automatically archive electronic communications in a way that will comply with regulations while communicating via IM.

Part of Global Relay’s success lies in how it treats its employees. “The most important thing is the number of good jobs we provide in the city, what we’re doing for Canadians and British Columbians,” says Founder and CEO Warren Roy. “As a Canadian firm, we’re socialist-thinking. We don’t bet it all on profitability, but on doing the right thing by our staff.”

Global Relay’s real estate plans don’t stop with the Gastown expansion. They’re just unfolding. As Roy told Colliers, “We’re talking a minimum of 12,000 square feet of commercial tower space in midtown New York and 5,000–8,000 square feet in London—room for 100 employees in New York and 50 in London—over 2014 and 2015.”

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