(Bloomberg) -- Barclays Chairman David Walker defended bonuses paid to investment bankers, saying the U.K.’s second-largest lender by assets needed to retain talent last year as U.S. competitors stepped up pay.

“We saw significantly higher numbers of high quality people we wanted to recruit turning down our offers,” Walker said at the bank’s annual general meeting today in London. “We were losing people who were crucial to the future of the investment bank in an extremely competitive environment.”

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