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The chief executive of Willis Group Holdings Ltd. defended the company’s spending on recruitment and retention, which led to a 35 percent decrease in net income in the third quarter, missing analysts’ earning estimates by five cents a share.

Joe Plumeri, the insurance brokerage firm’s chairman and chief executive officer, speaking to analysts today during a conference call, said the company’s strategy is to grow the firm through sales. The only way to do this, he noted, is to invest in people capable of achieving growth.

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