The Pfandbrief banks are important providers of residential and commercial property finance as well as of finance for public-sector activities. The legally prescribed standard, which until July 19, 2005 was laid down in the Mortgage Bank Act and subsequently in the Pfandbrief Act, has resulted in a higher level of expertise and professionalism in these fields of business. The Pfandbrief banks which together make up the vdp hold substantial market shares in their core business fields: 31% of residential property finance and 60% of commercial property loans are granted by the vdp member banks. Foreign customers are gaining in importance for the Pfandbrief banks in lending, too. Whereas the former mortgage banks confined their lending operations to the German market until 1988, they have since made use of the market potentials presented by mortgage and public-sector lending in the member states of the European Union and the European Economic Area. Since July 2002, German Pfandbrief banks may also engage in mortgage and public-sector lending in the USA, Canada and Japan.