April 20, 2016

Argentine-born and a banker by training, Queen Máxima of the Netherlands early on embraced economic empowerment as her cause.

In developing countries in particular, poorer families live uncertain lives and work in the informal economy—not by choice, but by necessity. They need access to financial services to lower their vulnerability and increase their opportunities. Yet when Queen Máxima started working on financial inclusion, more than half of working-age adults globally were excluded from the formal financial system.

To change that requires a massive effort—from smart policies to innovation on the ground. With her firm grasp of the technical issues, political savvy and boundless energy, Queen Máxima has masterfully used her role as the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Advocate, her empathy and her easy laughter to cajole, encourage and support decisionmakers—from the hallowed halls of the financial-standard-setting bodies in Basel, Switzerland, to the female leaders of savings groups in rural villages.

Ehrbeck is a partner at the Omidyar Network

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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