Commercial Financial Services - Chapman Legacy Society
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Gifts Established:

  • Bill Bartmann Scholarship Endowment for the Finance Excellence Fund | Est. 1997
brick engraved with name Commercial Financial Services

Commercial Financial Services

Commercial Financial Services (CFS) founder Bill Bartmann, who personally knew the highs of success and the lows of setback, was perhaps one of the most colorful contributors to The University of Tulsa’s Finance Excellence Fund. The Finance Excellence Fund combines gifts from many different donors, and it feeds into the Student Investment Fund, which supports student scholarships and other resources for students in the School of Finance and Operations Management.

Bill was born in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1948, and took an unlikely path to success. He dropped out of high school and left home at the age of fourteen, briefly joined a gang and was at one point arrested. He overcame these difficult early years, however, completing his GED, earning degrees in sociology and psychology, and completing his law degree. As a result of the recession which particularly devastated the energy industry in 1985, Bartmann lost the oil and gas equipment company he had founded. He recovered financially and went on to found debt collection company CFS in 1986.

In its heyday, CFS was successful, earning attention from national publications and kudos from prestigious business schools. The company also received acquisition and investment offers from at least two well-known corporations and banks. Bartmann brought a new approach to debt collection, based on a sympathetic style and avoidance of litigation. He was proud that his employees were taught to work with, rather than to hound, the individuals from whom they sought repayment.

Bill’s former employees recall with appreciation his desire to mentor those who worked for him, and they enjoyed his larger-than-life management of CFS, which included lavish rewards trips for employees who met collection goals.  For one trip, CFS leased 27 airplanes to fly thousands of Tulsa-based employees to Disney World for the weekend.  The company also offered on-site childcare for up to 500 children whose parents worked for CFS.

Bartmann, however, also knew disappointment. After a partner’s dealings drew legal action in 1998, CFS was unable to obtain financing and declared bankruptcy.

The tenacious former executive moved past this setback by founding CFS2 in 2010. Bill once again found success, and in 2015, he was named one of the “Most Admired CEOs in Oklahoma” by The Journal Record, a daily business and legal newspaper based in Oklahoma City. For two consecutive years, in 2013 and in 2014, CFS won The American Consumer Council’s “Friend of the Consumer” award, an unusual feat for a collection agency.

In 2015, Bartmann founded Financial Samaritan. This organization provided services to consumers free of charge to help them with life skills such as debt-negotiation, job searching, financial literacy, and access to social services.

Bartmann believed in second chances, both for himself and for others. It’s no surprise he requested that CFS’ donation to TU’s Finance Excellence Fund, much like a similar gift CFS made to the Oklahoma Department of Higher Education, be earmarked for a student who was struggling academically, or striving to conquer a personal challenge. When Bill passed away unexpectedly during heart surgery in 2016 at the age of 68, he was warmly remembered by friends and former employees as a man who cared about the people around him.

The Student Investment Fund generates scholarships for many highly successful TU finance students. Thanks to the kindness of the unconventional Bartmann, it also assists those who need a bit of extra support as they work to complete their degrees.