It's heart-warming to know there is so much quality and talent in our industry, says Andy Cook

Beaming smiles. That's what I remember from last Friday's Insurance Times awards. Whether it was the look of shocked delight on the face of Marion Jewell, who won Small Broker of the Year, or the look of delight as old friends met up, filled with Christmas cheer. Even the smiles of a few drunken revellers still networking at 8am, fully clad in dinner suits, clutching their pints was heart-warming.

The awards attracted record numbers of entrants. The service provider and innovation awards alone attracted almost 50 entries. And it wasn't just the numbers that were up. The quality was impressive. As chairman of the judging committee, I sat through 60 presentations from shortlisted companies and co-ordinated the tough questions thrown at the entrants by our panel of judges.

Because our awards are, uniquely in the insurance industry, judged on presentations followed by questions from the great and good of the industry, the judges and entrants can be sure that no one wins by spin. A presentation can look great on paper after the PR consultant has given it the once-over. But it is only when you can see the whites of their eyes that you can really be reassured that it is worthy.

While there were many outstanding performances from all who entered, two awards offered fantastic encouragement to the industry as a whole. The innovation awards attracted over 20 entries and we could have shortlisted many more. Any industry coming up with so many good ideas and putting them into practice cannot be all bad.

The Young Achiever of the Year was also heartening. Any one of the dozen entrants could have won. With people like these coming through, the future of our industry and profession is in good hands. Of course, the awards could not take place without the participation of the sponsors and entrants among the 1,000 attendees who made the Birmingham Metropole rock.

To all of you, our heartfelt thanks.