One cold scottish afternoon in 1995, a young Eric Bischof sat with his fellow Lehman Brothers Holdings bankers in the back of a black Daimler limousine. Bischof alone would brave the Edinburgh snows to meet potential investors in Renaissance­Re Holdings, a reinsurer planning an initial public offering. At the time, Lehman doubted that its Bermuda-based client would pull off the IPO, because its portfolio was too specialized, recalls Samuel Weinhoff, then Bischof’s boss and now a New York–based board member of Swiss insurer and reinsurer Allied World Assurance Company Holdings. Not Bischof, says Weinhoff: “Eric was highly regarded because, first, he understood the concept when no one else did and, second, he got the deal done.”

Today, Bischof, 47, co-heads the financial institutions group at Morgan Stanley in New York. Promoted with Jonathan Pruzan early last year, the Los Angeles native joined the bank from Lehman in 1996 as a senior associate and climbed the ranks by focusing on insurance. Among his many deals, he’s advised Zurich’s Swiss Re on its $6.8 billion takeover of GE Insurance Solutions in 2005, Boston-based Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. on its $6.2 billion buyout of auto insurer Safeco Insurance Co. in 2008 and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on its restructuring of American International Group.

On the AIG deal, his biggest to date, Bischof co-led a team of 30 bankers after the New York Fed hired Morgan Stanley in October 2008. AIG was almost bankrupt because of bad bets on credit default swaps linked to subprime mortgages, and the U.S. Federal Reserve had authorized the New York Fed to lend it as much as $85 billion in return for a 79.9 percent stake in the firm.

Bischof, who has an MBA from Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, knew he had to stabilize AIG’s credit rating and protect its most valuable assets. AIG, which then operated in some 130 countries and had more than 30 million U.S. policyholders, saw its market cap plunge to $945 million from a $240 billion peak.

The Morgan Stanley team decided that AIG would dispose of its international units. New York’s Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. bought AIG’s American Life Insurance Co. (Alico) for $16.1 billion in March 2010. Last October, Hong Kong–based American International Assurance (AIA) went public. The two transactions reportedly will net $51 billion to help pay back the $180 billion in bailouts that AIG ultimately received.