Gnomes of Zurich is a disparaging term for Swiss bankers.[1][2] Swiss bankers are popularly associated with extremely secretive policies, while gnomes in fairy tales live underground, in secret, counting their riches.[3][4] Zürich is the commercial centre of Switzerland.


After World War II, British Labour party politicians were worried about speculation against the pound undermining the economic regime. Economic growth in the United Kingdom was low, only half that of Germany and France. The demand for pound sterling started to fall.[5][6]

Although Swiss bankers had been criticised in Britain since the 1950s, the term "gnomes of Zürich" originated in a crisis meeting of the Labour politicians in November 1964.[7] The politicians blamed Swiss bankers for raising speculation against the pound.[8] During the meeting, politician George Brown criticised the Swiss bankers and said, "The gnomes of Zürich are at work again." The term "Gnomes of Zürich" was then used by many other politicians of the time.[5] Then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson vowed to resist the gnomes' sinister power.[9]

Paul Rossy, a top banker in Zürich at the time, stated, "In the world it is not the image, but the substance behind the image which counts." The phrase "gnomes of Zürich" was adopted by the Americans as well.[5]


Soon after the catchphrase became famous, a few Swiss bankers started answering their phone as "Hello, gnome speaking."[5] An audacious Swiss banker moved to London in order to set up his business and named it Gnome of Notting Hill.[5] The phrase also gave name to the 1966 T. R. Fehrenbach book on the history and practices of Swiss private banking, The Gnomes of Zurich.[10]

In the early 21st century, Zürich bankers have lost the foothold they had in the global economy due to the rise of London, New York, Dubai and Hong Kong as leading financial capitals.[5]

The Zürich Money Museum displays the sculpture of a gnome - founder Jürg Conzett says that nowadays, bankers see gnome as "almost" a noble title. Bankers currently based in London who are agitated by rising taxes, stricter regulation and public animosity towards investment banking have considered moving in large numbers to Zürich itself, where banking is "the state religion".[5]

Other uses


  1. ^ "Switzerland: The Gnomes of Zurich". Time. 12 March 1965. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  2. ^ Oxford University Press (March 2014). A Dictionary of Finance and Banking. OUP Oxford. pp. 210–. ISBN 978-0-19-966493-1. An unflattering term applied to Swiss bankers and financiers, alluding to their secrecy and speculative activity.
  3. ^ Robert L. Kroon (27 February 2008). A Lifetime of News: Tales Of A Foreign Correspondent. Xlibris Corporation. pp. 153–. ISBN 978-1-4653-2202-9. At the time, Swiss bankers were seriously upset about the label 'Gnomes of Zurich,' stuck on them by Britain's Labour ... We got along well and the great banker took his time to dispel 'all those nonsensical fairy tales' about gnomes and such.
  4. ^ Christopher Hope (2008). The Garden of Bad Dreams and Other Stories. Atlantic. ISBN 978-1-84354-772-3. In the metaphysics of midgetry, gnomes are bucolic, elderly, fairy-tale creatures, sometimes associated with riches: as, say, the gnomes of Zurich. Dwarfs are less reliable, discomforting; they evoke sympathy but it is mixed with fear.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Chris Bowlby (25 February 2010). "Why are Swiss bankers called gnomes?". BBC News Magazine.
  6. ^ William Norris (17 May 2014). One from Seven Hundred: A Year in the Life of Parliament. Elsevier Science. pp. 10–. ISBN 978-1-4831-3712-4. The gnomes of Zurich, as international money speculators had been labelled by the Labour Party, were being given a hard fight. But for some ...
  7. ^ Daniel Fasnacht (11 February 2009). Open Innovation in the Financial Services: Growing Through Openness, Flexibility and Customer Integration. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 76–. ISBN 978-3-540-88231-2. So, he snapped after a meeting 'the gnomes of Zurich are at work again.' T.R. Fehrenbach published 2 years later his bestseller 'The Gnomes of Zurich.' His book provided the first searching look behind the geranium-boxed barred windows
  8. ^ Adam Smith (24 June 1968). "My Friend the Gnome of Zurich Says Don't Look Over Your Shoulder, A Major Money Crisis is Gaining on You". New York. p. 17. You will recall that the phrase 'the Gnomes of Zurich' came from George Brown, Deputy Prime Minister of Great Britain, in 1964. When the pound was under attack, Mr. Brown said it was 'the Gnomes of Zurich'
  9. ^ Diccon Bewes (9 March 2012). Swiss Watching: Inside the Land of Milk and Money. Nicholas Brealey Publishing. pp. 108–. ISBN 978-1-85788-991-8. pocket was still worth twenty shillings, Harold Wilson damned them to be known for ever more as the gnomes of Zurich. ... where Gringotts Bank is run by goblins, the gnomes' uglier cousins, also traditionally cast as the bad guys in fairytales.
  10. ^ T. R. Fehrenbach (1 January 1966). The Gnomes of Zurich. Anchor Press. ISBN 978-0-856-32021-7.
  11. ^ CMJ Network, Inc. (6 September 1999). CMJ New Music Report. CMJ Network, Inc. pp. 28–. Unfortunately, Courtney Love, who lived in Minneapolis at the time, got her hooks into Weiland, and it wasn't long before the two of them headed off ... Butch Vig's production turned the band's blunt-instrument thud into an assault weapon blast. ... Tad Hendrickson Year Released: 1989 For Fans Of: Big Black, Drunks With Guns, Killdozer Bio Facts: Breuer went on to form Janitor Joe and Gnomes of Zurich.
  12. ^ John Kaufeld; Jeremy Smith (10 February 2006). Trading Card Games For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 207–. ISBN 978-0-470-04407-0. You can turn the tables on the whole conspiracy-theory realm when you take over the world in Illuminati: New World Order, ... For instance, the Illuminati sect called The Gnomes of Zurich loves corporations and banking, so they get a bonus for ...
  13. ^ "The Birth of the Black Swan Man". J. Galt Holdings, LLC. Archived from the original on 3 November 2018.