We are honoured to launch the 2018 Shares Awards, the annual event celebrating the best of the UK's financial services industry. Before the winners are revealed at a black-tie gala dinner on 8 November at the Grosvenor Hotel, we need your input to ascertain who has stood out from the crowd and provided superior services to investors and traders.

The awards are determined by votes cast by Shares' loyal readers, so this is a chance for customers to let it be known which providers are worthy of an accolade.

You'll see from the list of categories that we include Best Customer Service, an area in which Shares is very passionate. Ask many people and they will rank service standards much higher than the cost of using platforms. This may sound surprising given the importance of managing costs when investing to maximise your returns, yet a superior service does have massive value in itself.

Other categories include Best Retail Investor Services which judges how well a listed company has engaged with its retail investors. The role of investors has historically focused on institutions like fund managers and banks. Today's retail investor craves direct interaction with companies and personalised treatment, and this is being recognised by some of the more forward-thinking plcs. The importance of the retail investor community is highly underrated, in our opinion, so we look forward to seeing which companies you believe have gone above and beyond the call of duty to engage with its individual investors.

We want your votes on Crowdfunding and Peer to Peer Lending which continue to grow in popularity as investors seek alternative ways to invest their cash or generate an income. Crowdfunding offers investors the chance to back a young but hopefully fast-growing business, either through equity or mini bonds. Peer to Peer Lending can be seen as an alternative to buying high-yielding shares, as you can derive an attractive yield from using P2P platforms to temporarily lend money.

We've identified 32 key areas that deserve recognition, covering the major areas of investing and trading. We want you to vote on areas such as Best Execution-Only BrokerBest SIPP Provider and Best Wealth Manager. Investors with an interest beyond individual equities get a chance to reward excellence through nominating their choice of Best FundBest Fund Group and Best Exchange Traded Product Provider. Traders are fully served through categories including Best Spread Betting Service and Best CFD Provider.

To round off the awards portfolio, we're giving you the chance to vote for a select number of individual company achievements including awards for AIM Company of the Year and Main Market Company of the Year, as well as Transaction of the Year. Voting is now open via this website and we look forward to seeing the results in November.

Awards Schedule

26 July 2018 Nomination voting opens
05 September 2018 Nomination voting closes
13 September 2018 Nominations announced
08 November 2018 Winners announced at the presentation gala dinner