skip to content


Faculty Contact Details

Room: s11

Leverhulme Trust Early Career Researcher


Research Interests

I am a fiscal sociologist and socio-legal researcher interested in decentralized finance (DeFi), digital assets, tax and the digital economy. My current project is called "Taxing Ghosts: Transnational Residency Issues in the Digital Economy" (2023-2026), a Leverhulme Trust funded study following the experiences of start-ups and established tech companies as they navigate through the economic systems which generate their value and the regulatory systems which constrain their growth. My other ongoing project is a 10-year longitudinal study of women in offshore finance. It chronicles the experiences and career trajectories of women in offshore financial centres and compares those experiences to women in metropolitan financial centres. 

Other Projects:

"Fiscal Literacy NOW: Creating Accessible and Interactive 30-second finance lessons for young people through TikTok and social media" (2023-2024) is funded by Fonds de recherche du Québec, and is part of an experimental science communication and outreach project devised by myself and my co-investigator, Professor Allison Christians, at McGill University. The intent of Fiscal literacy NOW is to democratize financial literacy through the dissemination of the types of basic finance lessons typically found through higher education. In using a variety of accessible and interactive social media platforms, such as TikTok and Instagram, we aim to connect directly with young people to help them learn about the basics of money and finances as well as to dispel common misinformation on financial literacy. The traditional model of marketing and information sharing has been uprooted with the rise of platforms like TikTok and created a void in educational outreach as well as precarious conditions in which misinformation can spread. Additionally, our intent is to address a gap in educational training and outreach from universities by developing a template for university teaching and learning centers to share with their post-graduate students, professors, and other teaching staff. 

"The Politics of Money and 'Money-like Things': Cryptocurrency, Fintech and Disruptive Payment Systems" (2024-2026) is currently in-progress with my co-investigator, Professor Peter Chow-White, at Simon Fraser University and supported by the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy. The project will form the basis of the first 'University of Cambridge Professors in Residence Series: Decentralized Finance' for 2024-2026. The project provides the necessary and defined space at the University of Cambridge for empirically based, accurate, and productive information that can contribute to global conversations by establishing a year-long, flexible residency for leaders in the above themed research fields. This idea is a spin-off of my "Taxing Ghosts" project as it studies the rising decentralized finance community and develops research to address a gap in knowledge in this area. It would initiate a new piece of research on decentralized finance (DeFi) led by myself and a cohort of world-class professors leading the field and who are also directors of major research centres on money, AI, blockchain and cryptocurrencies. 

Research centres and interest groups

CV / Biography

Dr. May Hen-Smith holds a PhD in Sociology at the University of Cambridge (Jesus College). She holds a Bachelor's and Master's of Communication degree at Simon Fraser University (Canada). She is a fiscal sociologist and socio-legal researcher interested global tax issues and the digital economy. She is interested in decentralized finance, tax, regulations affecting the digital economy, and offshore financial centres. She is also working on a 10-year longitudinal study of women in offshore and onshore financial centres. May is actively involved in all aspects of international research and dialogue on anti-corruption, taxation, tax research in the social sciences, and fiscal anthropology of tax. She is interested in all things tax: 1) How it makes people behave, 2) How industries are formed around interpretation of it, and 3) How in the pursuit of 1) and 2) can influence the culture of indigenous populations.

She specializes in the study of a wide range of economic phenomena using ethnographic inquiry and qualitative research methods. Her current project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Canada), Leverhulme Trust (UK) and Isaac Newtown Trust (UK), and Trans-Atlantic Platform for Social Sciences and Humanities, is called "Follow-the-Technology". It is a 3-year study which follows the experiences of start-ups and established tech companies as they navigate through the economic systems which generate their value and the regulatory systems which constrain their growth.

Her previous research (2011-2021) looked at the technical role of offshore financial centres in the global financial system. She spent ten years conducting fieldwork in the Cayman Islands and other metropolitan financial centres and has conducted extensive ethnographic research and interviews amongst the finance and legal professionals who live and work there.




Tax, Public Finance, and the Rule of Law (ed)), forthcoming

Dominic De Cogan, Alexis Brassey and May Hen-Smith
Published Forthcoming


"The appeal of tax! Journal of Money Laundering Control" 20(1)

Published: Jan 2017

Book Chapters

"Sub-elites as fiduciary gatekeepers of global elites: a fiscal anthropology of the Cayman Islands offshore financial centre" in S. Chauvin, P. Clegg and B. Cousin (ed(s)), Euro-Caribbean Societies in the 21st Century: Offshore Europe and its Discontents (Routledge, 2018)

Published May 2018

Book Reviews

Cambridge Law Journal. Book Review: Building Trust in Taxation (2017). Edited by Bruno Peeters, Hans Gribnau and Jo Badisco. 77(3)

de Cogan, Dominic
Published Jan 2018


Intellectual Property Policies for Canadian Universities

Body / Institution:
Centre for Policy Research for Science and Technology. Vancouver, British Columbia. Simon Fraser University
Published: Jan 2010