Then came the financial crisis. Share prices tumbled, and dividends were slashed.
In the case of part-nationalised Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group they halted altogether.
Obscured by the customary clouds of rage that herald the start of the banks' latest bonus round, a new sheaf of brokers' notes on RBS has highlighted how far we are from returning to this previous normality.
Far from considering restarting dividend payments, RBS faces a major task to build up its capital cushion to level regulators find acceptable.
Dividends are at least another two years away.
This is not simply grounds for a grumble between the well-heeled private investor and his stockbroker.
All of us have an interest through the Government's 82% stake in the bank.
It will struggle to sell any shares until, at the very least, dividends become a realistic prospect.
We could blame bonuses. The Bank of England has warned banks to hold back on pay until their capital is rebuilt.
But RBS, of course, wants to stop top staff defecting to rivals with looser purse strings.
Five years after the crisis began we have a financial system that favours the well-paid investment banker over the humble taxpayer.