If you’re a Lloyds Banking Group (LSE: LLOY) shareholder, it’s likely that you’ll be logging into your trading account today to check that your dividends have been paid.

Each shareholder should today receive a regular dividend of 1.5p per share and also a ‘special’ dividend of 0.5p – a total of 2p.

Combining these with the 0.75p interim dividend paid back in September brings the total dividend to 2.75p for the 2015 financial year.

On the current share price of 66p, that’s a yield of around 4.2%, and if you held £5,000 worth of Lloyds’ shares – your dividend cheque would be approximately £208.

This is a significant improvement from the sole 0.75p dividend payment that the bank paid shareholders for FY2014. And let’s not forget that after cutting its dividend in 2008 at the height of the financial crisis, Lloyds paid no dividend at all for six years.

So after years of underperformance, it appears that the banking giant is finally on an upwards trajectory, and shareholders who have stuck with the bank through the troubled times should now be rewarded.

But the big question is: what dividends can shareholders expect going forward?

Potential cash cow

After reading through a selection of sell-side research reports, there’s no doubt that the city expects some form of dividend growth in the future.

What’s interesting though is the contrast in dividend projections between the brokers.

For example, the analysts at Barclays appear to be highly optimistic about Lloyds’ dividends prospects. They’re forecasting the bank to pay out 6p for FY2016, 7p for FY2017 and 8p for FY2018. An 8p dividend on the current share price is a whopping 12% yield!

Similarly, Société Générale has pencilled-in payouts of 5p, 5.75p and 6.5p over this time frame and Morgan Stanley has forecast payouts of 4p, 5p and 6p over these years.

Clearly, if these broker forecasts prove to be correct, there’s no doubt that Lloyds Bank is set to be an absolute cash cow for shareholders.

But before you rush off and buy Lloyds shares for a potentially huge dividend payout, I’d recommend thinking about some of the risks that are still present within the banking sector.

Risks: PPI, Brexit and more

In contrast to the projections above, the folks at investment bank Berenberg take a more pessimistic view towards Lloyds Bank. In fact, they’ve actually slapped a sell rating on the stock, with a 55p target, and stated that the market consensus for Lloyds’ dividends is way too high.

Berenberg has concerns over weak loan volumes, regulatory capital target pressures and lack of cost-cutting visibility, and believe that Lloyds will only be able to increase its dividend by around 0.25p per year over the next three years.

In my opinion this view is worth considering because, while I think that Lloyds is in better shape than a few years ago, I also believe there are still key risks in the banking sector that have the potential to influence earnings.

Are PPI provisions done with? Can Lloyds hit its regulatory capital buffers without affecting earnings? Will UK property take a turn for the worse? Will Brexit actually happen?

These are all factors that are worth thinking about before buying Lloyds’ shares.

But for now – enjoy your dividend payout and let’s hope that Lloyds can continue to reward shareholders in the future. 

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Edward Sheldon has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.